Hong Kong stocks headed higher Friday morning following a global advance overnight, helped by reports of a new cease-fire agreement between Russia and Ukraine, with the Hang Seng Index rising 0.6%. The gains came ahead of the release of China's new credit data for January, widely expected to come out later in the day and holding the potential to move the market. Casino operators posted broad-based gains, with Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. climbing 2.5% despite reporting a decline in its quarterly net profit. Hang Seng component Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. improved by 2.3%, Sands China Ltd. -- also part of the index -- moved up 0.9%, Wynn Macau Ltd. tacked on 2.2%, and SJM Holdings Ltd. moved 1.3% higher. Among other advancers, banking major HSBC Holdings PLC extended its rebound for a second day, rising 0.9% after taking a hit earlier in the week on allegations of tax evasion at its Swiss unit. China Life Insurance Co. rose 0.5% after the company reported a 6.2% year-on-year increase in its premium revenues for last month. But acting to limit the market's advance, telecom major China Mobile Ltd. retreated 0.3% amid likely profit-taking after a 4.2% rally the previous day when state media quoted regulators as denying a pair of rumored merger plans between China Mobile and Shaanxi Broadcast & TV Network Intermediary Group Co. and separately between China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. and China Telecom Corp. . China Telecom pulled back 0.8% (after a 2.9% gain Thursday), but China Unicom rose 0.6% (it jumped 4.2% Thursday). The smaller Shaanxi Broadcast surged 4.3% in Shanghai, where the Shanghai Composite Index added to recent gains with a 0.3% move higher. Also lower was China Minsheng Banking Corp. , easing 0.7% in Hong Kong and flat in Shanghai, after reporting its financial results that missed market expectations.
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