Hong Kong stocks kicked higher Monday morning, looking likely to extend an eight-day winning streak. The Hang Seng Index rose 0.5%, following a 7.9% surge last week, seemingly shrugging off weak Chinese export data announced half an hour after the open. Exports in March decreased 15% from a year earlier, according to dollar-term data reported by Dow Jones Newswires, widely missing a forecast 10% rise. Imports reportedly fell 12.7%, a little worse than the 12% forecast drop. But despite the weak numbers, Hong Kong's mainland-China-tracking Hang Seng China Enterprises Index added 1.5%. Shares of brokerage firms jumped after China Securities Depository and Clearing Corp. said mainland investors would be allowed to open up to 20 stock-trading accounts, effective Monday. Haitong International Securities Group Co. rose 6.9%, First Shanghai Investments Ltd. rallied 4.5%, Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd. climbed 4.2%, Shenyin Wanguo HK Ltd. advanced 4.1%, and China Galaxy Securities Co. rose 3.8%. Mainland bank China Merchants Bank Co. soared 17.1% after it announced a massive employee stock-incentive plan over the weekend, raising up to 6 billion yuan ($960 million) through a private placement to no more than 8,500 employees. However, Hong Kong retailers retreated broadly after state media reported China would slash the number of visitors to Hong Kong from the neighbouring city of Shenzhen by putting a limit of one entry per week on residents' visa to Hong Kong. Cosmetics chain store Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd. sank 7.2%, rival Bonjour Holdings Ltd. slid 5.7%, jewelery retailer Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. lost 5%, and local competitor Luk Fook Holdings International Ltd. fell 3.1%. On the mainland itself, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 1.2% after closing above the 4,000 level Friday for the first time in more than seven years.
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