HONG Kong shares slipped for a second straight day on Tuesday, pulled lower by a 3.3 percent loss for AIA Group after American International Group sold its remaining stake in the Asian insurance giant.
A weak Chinese property sector limited gains in mainland markets, after data showed home prices in China's 70 major cities rose in November for the fourth month in the last five, raising fears that more sector curbs could be in store.
The Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1 percent, while the China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong edged up 0.1 percent. Excluding AIA and a placement involving Shui On Land, turnover in Hong Kong was almost HK$68 billion, near its 30-day average.
In the mainland, the CSI300 of the top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings and the Shanghai Composite Index both rose 0.1 percent as they eked out a third-straight gain. Shanghai volume was the lowest in three days, but still nearly 30 percent above its 30-day average.
"There's some year-end window dressing going on since this is the last full trading week this year," said Jackson Wong, vice-president for equity sales at Tanrich Securities. "If you exclude AIA, trading is actually quite light today."
Its closing price was above the HK$30.30 per share that the deal was priced at and near the top end of the HK$29.65-HK$30.65 range it had been marketed at, pointing to strong demand for the placement.
China Oilfield Services Ltd tumbled 5.7 percent in Shanghai and 1.3 percent in Hong Kong after Norwegian authorities claimed the company could owe up to $140 million in taxes related to a 2008 acquisition.
Property developers China Vanke slumped 3.6 percent in Shenzhen, while China Overseas Land shed 1.9 percent, both trimming strong 2012 gains, with losses accelerating after the monthly home price data was released.
Vanke, which has lost 5 percent on Monday and Tuesday combined, remains up 23.4 percent in 2012.
The official Xinhua news agency said China's leaders decided at the annual economic policy setting conference over the weekend to maintain controls on the sector in the new year.
CHINA BANKS A-SHARES STRONG
Strength in Chinese banking stocks accounted for a third straight daily gain for onshore indexes as retail investors chased large cap counters on hopes that the current rally runs through into the new year.
China Merchants Bank was up 1.2 percent in Shanghai and 1 percent in Hong Kong. Its Shanghai listing had been down 16.5 percent on the year on Dec. 3, but a 20 percent rally since then has pushed it into positive territory in 2012.
Much of the rally in the Chinese banking sector this month has come after China's insurance regulator abolished limits for insurance firms' investments in the country's banks. Previously, firms were unable to invest in more than two banks if they owned more than 5 percent of any single bank.
Guangdong Shengyi Science Technology lost 1 percent after it was one of 15 removals from the CSI300 index effective Jan. 1, while Sealand Securities, one of 15 replacements, jumped 6.2 percent.