HONG KONG: Hong Kong stocks tumbled 2.24% on Friday, their worst performance in six months, following another weak set of data out of China that adds to concerns about the state of the world's No 2 economy.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index dived 522.77 points to 22,817.28 on turnover of HK$68.13bil (US$8.79bil).
The loss was the biggest since July and was exacerbated by the fact that a number of investors were still away after the New Year break.
Hong Kong was the biggest loser in a regional sell-off after Beijing released figures showing growth in China's services sector slowed sharply in December. The sector covers services including, among others, retail, aviation, software and real-estate.
Friday's data followed news on Wednesday and Thursday that manufacturing in the country had also suffered a slowdown in growth.
Adding to downward pressure were losses on Wall Street, where the Dow and S&P 500 slipped after end 2013 art record highs, while the Nasdaq fell from its strongest level of the year.
Andrew Sullivan, a director of sales trading at Kim Eng Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires that a number of funds had told him they would not start 2014 positioning until next week.
"If it was my money, I would probably wait until later in the week to start buying," he said.
HSBC fell 1.95% to HK$82.95, Ping An Insurance slipped 1.89% to HK$67.40, Sino Land was off 3.03% at HK$10.24 and Cathay Pacific gave up 1.95% to end at HK$16.08. Sun Hung Kai Properties eased 1.68% to HK$96.40.
Chinese stocks closed down 1.24%, with fears of a share glut also weighing on sentiment as a ban on initial public offerings was lifted at the start of the year.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 26.25 points to 2,083.14 on turnover of 72.4 billion yuan (US$12bil).
Five companies said Tuesday that they had received permission to raise a combined 2.1 billion yuan through IPOs, while six additional firms got the go ahead later in the week, state media reported.
Brokerages fell across the board. Soochow Securities sank 4.0% to 8.15 yuan and Haitong Securities slid 3.93% to 10.77 yuan. Cement firms also lost ground, under pressure from stricter government environmental protection standards.
Anhui Conch Cement shed 4.55% to 15.73 yuan and Anhui Chaodong Cement dropped 3.22% to 9.61 yuan – AFP.