China shares hit 2 week low on property jitters

China shares tumbled to their lowest in two weeks early on Monday, hurting Hong Kong markets, roiled by mainland news reports saying banks have begun tightening property loans.

China Vanke dived more than 6% after the official Shanghai Securities News reported on Monday that Industrial Bank may have stopped some types of property-related loans, though several other banks have left property-loan policies unchanged.

"I would get out of interest rate-sensitive sectors. It's very hard to navigate right now with policy risk on the rise," said Hong Hao, Hong Kong-based chief equity strategist at Bank of Communication International.

"Property prices in many cities are still rising and that's not a good sign coming ahead of the annual parliamentary meetings that start next week," Hong added. Those meetings are due to start March 5 in Beijing.

At midday, the CSI300 of the biggest Shanghai and Shenzhen A-share listings was down 2.6% to its lowest since February 7, while the Shanghai Composite Index slid 2% to its lowest since February 10.

The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong shed 2.3%. The Hang Seng Index sank 1.3% to 22,279 points, slipping back below its 200-day moving average, which it rose above a week ago.

Mainland losses came in hefty volumes. Midday Shanghai volumes were at their strongest in two months after official data showed average new home prices rose 9.6% in China's 70 major cities in January from a year earlier. The increase was the lowest in 14 months.

Poly Real Estate slumped 8.2% in Shanghai and Gree Real Estate the maximum 10% as the Shanghai property sub-index slid 5.7%, headed for its biggest single-day loss in about eight months.

China Vanke, the country's largest developer by sales, dived as much as 7.5% in Shenzhen to its lowest since January 2009. In Hong Kong, China Resources Land and Shimao Property each sank more than 7%.

The Shanghai Securities News said there may be no new loans extended at Industrial Bank until the end of March. Tightening fears have existed for months, analysts said, but Monday's selloff was less pronounced in the credit markets, compared with the stock markets.

Industrial Bank shares declined 3.2% in Shanghai, while China's biggest cement producer Anhui Conch Cement tumbled 4.4% in Hong Kong and 5.2% in Shanghai.

EARNINGS FOCUS

Shares of Belle International rose 3.1% in Hong Kong after the China-focused shoe retailer posted a 3.2% increase in 2013 net profit. Belle's result buoyed rival Daphne International, whose shares climbed 2.6%.

HSBC Holdings shares slipped 0.6% ahead of its 2013 full year earnings later in the day. The stock, now down 0.3% in 2014, is currently trading at 11 times forward 12-month earnings, a 13% discount to its historical median, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

In the last 30 days, nine of 31 analysts have downgraded their 2013 earnings-per-share estimates for HSBC by an average of 5.5%, according to StarMine.

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