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Chinese tech stocks drive Hong Kong gains

HONG KONG (AFP) – Shares in Hong Kong finished with gains yesterday, as surging Chinese tech stocks helped it shrug off a weak lead from Wall Street on the last trading day of the year.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed up by more than one per cent, on a day when many Asian bourses – Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand – were closed for public holidays.

Hangzhou-based conglomerate Alibaba was up more than eight per cent, with food delivery platform Meituan up by over three per cent, pushing the Hang Seng tech index past gains of three per cent overall in a holiday-shortened trading session.

The daily gains signalled some good news at the end of a tough year for many Chinese tech giants, which have been battered by Beijing’s drive to rein in their outsized influence on the world’s second-biggest economy.

The Hang Seng Index has been the world’s poorest-performing major gauge in 2021, down about 14 per cent for the year, while the Hang Seng tech index is nearly halved from a February peak.

“The outlook for 2022 remains uncertain, especially during the first quarter because the regulatory risk is not totally over yet,” warned Steven Leung, executive director of UOD Kay Hian (Hong Kong).

A man looks at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

Shanghai was marginally up at the close, while Sydney and Wellington posted slight losses.

During the previous trading day, global stocks were mixed as markets weighed the efforts to limit the health and economic effects of the latest fast-spreading COVID-19 wave.

The Omicron variant has led to record new caseloads of COVID-19 worldwide, but markets have remained sanguine in light of research suggesting the health effects will be milder than with earlier variants.

Paris and Frankfurt both climbed but London fell, and Wall Street paused its rally, with both the Dow and S&P 500 retreating from all-time highs.

“Worries about the Omicron variant have receded, but the speed of its spread is tempering sentiment,” analysts at Charles Schwab wrote.

And chief investment officer for private wealth at Glenmede Jason Pride told Bloomberg Television: “As we look forward to 2022 the gains are probably going to be more modest than they’ve been in the past year or so.”

But there was reason for optimism too, he said, since “we’re still in the recovery from the pandemic”.

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