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Hong Kong stocks end flat


Hong Kong shares closed flat on Monday, with disappointing Chinese economic data offsetting better-than-forecast US jobs figures and another record close on the Dow on Wall Street.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index edged down 1.13 points to 23,090.82 on turnover of HK$59.03 billion ($7.62 billion).

The US Labor Department said the economy generated a net 236,000 new jobs in February, far more than expected, pulling the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent.

The report reinforced views the recovery is strengthening, while analysts said underlying figures and upcoming spending cuts meant the Federal Reserve was unlikely to take its foot off its monetary easing soon.

The Dow broke the 14,400 line for the first time, before finishing at 14,397.07, up 0.47 percent and a new record for a fourth straight session.

The S&P 500 also rose 0.45 percent to 1,551.18, approaching its own record high, while the Nasdaq added 0.38 percent.

However, results from Beijing Saturday showed inflation at a 10-month high of 3.2 percent in February while growth in industrial output and retail sales slowed.

The figures raise concerns that the pick-up in the economy may be slowing while dealers are also worried the government will unveil tightening measures to temper prices.

"The world's largest economy continues to recover, while the world's second-largest economy looks like it has run into a bit of a soft patch," Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.

China Mobile rose 0.48 percent to HK$84.60, HSBC added 0.35 percent to HK$85.25 and Bank of China HK climbed 1.89 percent to HK$26.90.

Among the losers, Foxconn slipped 0.30 percent to HK$3.29 and Sun Hung Kai Properties eased 0.26 percent to HK$114.60.

Chinese shares ended down 0.35 percent. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 8.02 points to 2,310.59 on turnover of 73.9 billion yuan ($11.9 billion).

"The market will start consolidating as it digests signals from higher inflation and tighter property measures," Soochow Securities analyst Deng Wenyuan told Dow Jones Newswires.

Beijing this month issued rules to rein in housing prices, including a nationwide capital gains tax of 20 percent on profits from tyhe sale of residential properties.

Banking stocks led the declines. China Minsheng Banking lost 3.22 percent to 10.22 yuan while Industrial Bank fell 3.15 percent to 19.09 yuan.

Railway stocks bucked the trend, rising on hopes for improved profitability after China on Sunday announced plans to split its railway ministry into administrative and commercial arms to curb corruption.

Guangshen Railway gained 1.87 percent to 3.26 yuan and Daqin Railway rose 0.78 percent to 7.77 yuan.