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HONG KONG, March 1 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shares could start March higher on Friday after official data showed factory activity in the mainland came in at its slowest pace in four months, broadly in line with expectations.
China's February official purchasing managers' index (PMI) came in at 50.1, slightly below a 50.2 Reuters poll consensus and the 50.4 posted in January.
Sources told Reuters that China plans major bond market reform to raise the money the ruling Communist Party needs for a 40 trillion yuan ($6.4 trillion) urbanisation programme to buoy economic growth and close a chasm between the urban rich and rural poor.
On Thursday, the Hang Seng Index climbed 2 percent to 23,020.3 points, cutting its February losses to 3 percent. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong rose 2.6 percent, but sank 5.7 percent last month.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei was down 0.1 percent, while South Korea's KOSPI was up 1.1 percent in 0048 GMT.
FACTORS TO WATCH:
* China Life Insurance Co Ltd 601628.SS, the world's biggest insurer by market value, said on Thursday that its full-year 2012 profit could be 40 percent less than it was in 2011.
* A healthy Hong Kong economy and ultra-low mortgage rates could spur first-time buyer sales and cushion the blow of tightening measures, the world's No. 2 property company by market value Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd said on Thursday. Sun Hung Kai reported fiscal first-half earnings that beat forecasts, and lowered its sales target for this financial year by 9 percent to HK$32 billion.
* China National Materials Co Ltd (SINOMA) expects its 2012 net profit to drop substantially due to increasing market competition and falling revenues at its cement equipment and engineering business.
* Tencent Holdings, China's biggest online gaming and social networking company, has set up a joint venture with Indonesia's biggest media group PT Global Mediacom to tap the country's growing social media market.
* MGM Resorts International says MGM China Holdings is to adopt a regular distribution policy and intends to make semi-annual distributions per year not exceeding 35 percent of its anticipated consolidated annual profits.
* Brazil's government is negotiating a partnership with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) to finish work on two oil refineries, Brazil's energy minister said on Thursday.
* Silver Wheaton Corp said it has struck a deal with Vale SA to buy a portion of the gold by-products stream from the iron ore miner for $1.9 billion.
* Brazil's Supreme Court will rule in the first half of this year on whether iron ore miner Vale SA must pay an estimated $15.2 billion in taxes on earnings from its operations abroad, the president of the court said on Thursday.
* Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd, in response to media reports on environmental protection of its Dexing Copper Mine, said production was safe and the company had not been told to suspend its operation.(Reporting by Clement Tan and Donny Kwok; Editing by Stephen Coates)