By Laura He, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Hong Kong stocks eked out gains on Wednesday, returning to the advance after snapping an eight-day win streak on Tuesday. But the gains were capped after data showed China’s economic growth declined to a six-year low in the first quarter.
The Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.10% recovered 0.2% to 27,618.82, after retreating on Tuesday from a seven-year high of 28,016.34. The mainland-China-tracking Hang Seng China Enterprises /zigman2/quotes/210598031/delayed CN:160462 -0.06% rose 1.5%.
Official data released Wednesday showed China’s gross domestic product grew 7% in the first quarter — the slowest pace since 2009. Still, the figure matched forecasts in a Reuters survey and exceeded an estimated 6.9% increase in a Wall Street Journal poll. Meanwhile, industrial output and retail sales both recorded weaker-than-expected growth in March.
On the mainland itself, Shanghai markets halted a three-day run, with the Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.13% pulling back 1.2%.
Mainland Chinese banks posted broad-based gains, with Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 +0.55% /zigman2/quotes/204265987/composite IDCBF -3.27% /zigman2/quotes/202525815/delayed CN:601398 -0.92% jumping 4.9%, China Construction Bank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/209484779/composite CICHF +4.22% /zigman2/quotes/208058581/delayed CN:601939 -1.38% climbing 4.4%, Bank of Communications Co. /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 +1.19% /zigman2/quotes/208048873/composite BKFCF 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/207155262/delayed CN:601328 +0.41% rising 4.3%, and Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204682472/delayed HK:3988 +0.96% /zigman2/quotes/201568493/composite BACHY +0.50% /zigman2/quotes/209359942/delayed CN:601988 -0.30% higher by 3.6%.
The biggest gainer, Alibaba Health Information Technology Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205411947/delayed HK:241 -0.87% , soared 80.8%, after parent Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201948298/composite BABA -0.80% said it would transfer its Tmall online-pharmacy business to Alibaba Health in exchange for $2.5 billion worth of shares and convertible debt. After the deal, Alibaba Group’s stake in the health-care company would be set to increase to more than 50%, making it a consolidated subsidiary.
On the downside, online major Tencent Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204605823/delayed HK:700 -0.72% /zigman2/quotes/207908563/composite TCEHY -1.72% extended previous losses to decline 2.2%. Fellow index heavyweight China Mobile Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200868736/delayed HK:941 +0.48% also retreated, dropping 2.7%.
Other Asian markets were mostly weaker, with Japan’s Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -1.97% slipping 0.2% and the broader Topix /zigman2/quotes/210598092/delayed JP:180460 -1.55% drifting 0.1% lower. The yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.2340% softened, with the greenback buying ¥119.56, compared with ¥119.40 late Tuesday in New York.