Chinese tech stocks drive Hong Kong gains
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Hong Kong (AFP) – Shares in Hong Kong opened with strong gains Friday, as surging Chinese tech stocks helped it shrug off a weak lead from Wall Street on the last trading day of the year.
The benchmark Hang Seng index was up by two percent in early trade, on a day when many Asian bourses -- Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand -- were closed for public holidays.
Hangzhou-based conglomerate Alibaba was up more than nine percent, with food delivery platform Meituan up by over five percent, pushing the Hang Seng tech index past gains of four percent overall in a holiday-shortened trading session.
The daily gains signalled some good news at the end of a tough year for many Chinese tech giants, which have been battered by Beijing's drive to rein in their outsized influence on the world's second-biggest economy.
Chinese artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime followed its positive Hong Kong debut Thursday with more gains in early trade.
Its strong start comes despite its blacklisting by the United States over accusations of abetting rights abuses in China's Xinjiang province.
Shanghai was marginally up, while Sydney and Wellington posted slight losses.
During the previous trading day, global stocks were mixed as markets weighed the efforts to limit the health and economic effects of the latest fast-spreading Covid-19 wave.
The Omicron variant has led to record new caseloads of Covid-19 worldwide, but markets have remained sanguine in light of research suggesting the health effects will be milder than with earlier variants.
Paris and Frankfurt both climbed but London fell, and Wall Street paused its rally, with both the Dow and S&P 500 retreating from all-time highs.
"Worries about the Omicron variant have receded, but the speed of its spread is tempering sentiment," analysts at Charles Schwab wrote.
And Jason Pride, chief investment officer for private wealth at Glenmede, told Bloomberg Television: "As we look forward to 2022 the gains are probably going to be more modest than they've been in the past year or so."
But there was reason for optimism too, he said, since "we're still in the recovery from the pandemic".
Key figures around 0220 GMT
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: closed for public holiday at 28,791.71
Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.92 percent at 23,556.13
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.42 percent at 3,634.36
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1320 from $1.1329
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3499 from $1.3498
Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.85 pence from 83.92 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 115.09 yen from 115.07 yen
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.95 percent at $76.26 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.92 percent at $78.80 per barrel
New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 4,778.73 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,403.01 (close)
--Bloomberg News contributed to this report --
© 2021 AFP