ASIA MARKETS: Hong Kong Stocks Score Fresh All-time High

Chinese stocks buck the trend following crackdown on shadow banking

Asian stock markets ended mixed on Wednesday, with Hong Kong shares scoring a fresh all-time closing high, while other markets pulled back following the previous afternoon's selloff in U.S. equities.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.3% to end at 31,983.41, taking out its previous record closing high of 31,904.75 set on Tuesday. The Hang Seng was among the world's best performers last year, jumping 36%. And it has again outperformed.

The Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.2% higher. Banking stocks remained strong, with investors looking to capitalize on value, said Caroline Yu Maurer, the Hong Kong-based head of greater China equities at BNP Paribas Asset Management.

Money was entering the sector from Shenzhen, where more-speculative stocks are listed. The Shenzhen Composite ended 0.3% lower.

China's banking sector is expected to return to double-digit profit growth in the current fiscal year--from close to zero growth over the last three years, said Michael Chang, head of China financials at broker CIMB.

Following the Chinese government's crackdown on bad debt last year, most big and medium-sized banks have cleaned up their loan book with profit growth looking optimistic due to higher rates, he added.

On a more downbeat note, Australia's S&P ASX 200 Index ended 0.5% lower , hit by losses for miners as copper futures sold off.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index , which set fresh 26-year highs Tuesday, was weighed by further overnight declines in the dollar against the yen . The index ended down 0.4% on Wednesday.

New Zealand stocks, meanwhile, extended Tuesday's rebound as the NZX-50 rose 0.6% to finish at session highs. A2 Milk climbed 3.1% on news that it plans to increase its distribution in the U.S. Still, the market is underperforming the region, with the benchmark index down for January after rising every month last year.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 17, 2018 07:34 ET (12:34 GMT)