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Hong Kong stocks close flat

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Hong Kong shares ended flat on Friday as profit-taking offset data out of China showing manufacturing expanded in January.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index eased 7.69 points to 23,721.84 on turnover of HK$70.56 billion ($9.10 billion).

The loss comes after the market climbed to a fresh 21-month high earlier in the week.

China's official purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 50.4 in January, slightly down from 50.6 in the previous month but still indicating growth.

Separately British bank HSBC said its PMI for January stood at 52.3, up from a preliminary 51.9 released last week and a final 51.5 in December.

A score above 50 indicates an expansion in manufacturing activity.

While the official figures represent a halt to a recent rise in activity that has fuelled hopes for the world's number two economy, they still show that manufacturing is picking up.

Both surveys "remained in a state of expansion, reflecting our scenario of a modestly rebounding domestic economy continuing to pick up in 2013", Yifan Hu, head of research and chief economist at Haitong International said.

And Tang Yonggang, an analyst at Hongyuan Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires: "The (official) PMI reading was lower than expectations, though it wasn't too low, so the trend of expansion in manufacturing stays somewhat intact."

China Overseas Land fell 2.3 percent to HK$23.50 and China Resources Land dipped 2.5 percent to HK$23.00 but Kunlun Energy rebounded 1.4 percent to HK$16.34 after a two-session, 4.0 percent losing streak.

Macau casino operator Sands China closed down 0.1 percent at HK$39.05 as Macau's January gambling revenue fell short of forecasts.

Chinese shares surged 1.41 percent. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 33.60 points to 2,419.02 on turnover of 125.6 billion yuan ($20.2 billion). The index gained 5.57 percent for the week.

"The slight decline in the official PMI was seen as a result of seasonal factors, while the HSBC figure was strong, so investor sentiment remained quite positive," BOC International analyst Shen Jun told AFP.

Financial stocks rebounded on bargain buying.

New China Life Insurance hit its 10 percent daily limit to end at 31.43 yuan while Ping An Insurance gained 5.29 percent to 50.77 yuan, despite uncertainty over HSBC's planned sale of its stake in the firm as a deadline looms for approval by Chinese regulators.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130201/hong-kong-stocks-close-flat-0