Hong Kong stocks made fresh gains Thursday morning, shrugging off weak Chinese manufacturing data from HSBC. The Hang Seng Index advanced 0.9%, extending its opening advance and heading toward a third day of wins, with the mainland-China-tracking H-share index up 0.8%. Shortly after Hong Kong markets opened, preliminary April data from HSBC showed China's manufacturing fell to a one-year low, with the "flash" Purchasing Managers Index dropping to 49.2, down from a final read of 49.6 in the previous month. On the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index seesawed after the data release, sitting 0.1% lower about an hour into trade. The index had rallied 2.4% in the previous session, settling at a new seven-year high. Back in Hong Kong, Chinese online major Tencent Holdings Ltd. added to its recent rally, climbing 1.3% as reports said its new online banking unit - WeBank -- has commenced operations on a trial basis recently and was expected to open for business soon. Bourse operator Hong Kong Exchange & Clearing Ltd. also improved on its recent advance, rising 3.1% after the vice chairman of China's Securities Regulatory Commission again stressed that the agency's next step would be to actively push ahead with a Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect scheme. The official also said progress in the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program had met with the regulators' projections. Brokerage firms rose broadly, as Haitong International Securities Group Co. surged 5.4%, Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd. climbed 4.8%, China Galaxy Securities Co. added 1.7%, and China Everbright Ltd. traded 1.4% higher. Hong Kong-based lender BOC Hong Kong Holdings Ltd. tacked on 2% after reports said the bank had received bidding documents for its planned sale of subsidiary Nanyang Commercial Bank. Its competitors also posted gains, with Dah Sing Banking Group Ltd. up 2.6%, Chong Hing Bank Ltd. rising 2.5%, and Hang Seng Bank Ltd. higher by 2.4%. However, Macau gaming stocks recorded heavy declines. Sands China Ltd. lost 3.1%, after reporting a 54% slide in its net profit in the first quarter. Rivals were also weaker, as Wynn Macau Ltd. fell 2.7%, MGM China Holdings Ltd. dropped 2.5%, SJM Holdings Ltd. shed 2.3%, and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. moved down 1.5%.
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