Hong Kong, Shanghai Stocks Advance In Early Trade

Hong Kong shares rose in tandem with their Shanghai peers early Thursday, with gains for the financial sector leading the market higher. The Hang Seng Index added 0.4%, coming back from a 1% drop the previous session, while the Shanghai Composite also rose 0.4%, and Hong Kong's H-share index improved by 0.9%. Banks and brokers were broadly stronger in Hong Kong, with some reports citing a benefit from rising volumes over the past several weeks since the launch of the Hong Kong-Shanghai Stock Connect. China Merchants Bank Co. rose 1.6%, Bank of Communications Co. climbed 3.1%, and China Citic Bank Corp. gained 2.1%. Energy shares also improved as crude-oil futures moved off their recent losses during early Asia trading, with PetroChina Co. up 0.9% and Cnooc Ltd. rising 2.3%. Real-estate was mixed, however (China Vanke Co. down 0.9%, Shimao Property Holdings Ltd. down 0.4%, but Greentown China Holdings Ltd. up 2%), while the two casino-operator components of the Hang Seng Index -- Sands China Ltd. and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. -- fell 1.6% and 2.4%, respectively, to extend their losses made since the release of weak Macau gaming revenue data for November. Sands is now down 10.7% for the week so far, while Galaxy is 9.8% weaker over that period. And stock in Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. rallied 2.3%, with investors seemingly unworried about the carrier's pilots union deciding to refuse overtime and possibly slow work down after salary talks failed to yield an agreement.

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