Hong Kong-Shanghai trade link disappoints on day two

HONG KONG (AFP) - Investors largely turned away from the link-up between the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges on Tuesday, a day after it launched to much fanfare and ambitions for billions of dollars in daily cross-border transactions.

Officials have trumpeted the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect as opening up China's closeted stock markets to the outside world and giving mainlanders a chance to enter the lucrative Hong Kong exchange.

But the second day of trading has proved a damp squib, with China-based investors buying little more than 3 per cent of their daily allowance of Hong Kong shares by the break, while Hong Kong dealers picked up only a fifth of their Shanghai quota.

The launch day was also disappointing. While Hong Kong investors had exhausted their daily allowance of Shanghai shares two hours before the end of trade, mainlanders used up less than 20 per cent of their quota by the close.

The weak uptake was reflected in the two stock markets, which were hit by another batch of downcast housing data out of China that indicate continued weakness in the world's number two economy. Hong Kong was down 0.75 per cent at lunch, while Shanghai was 0.41 per cent lower.

"One would expect trading volumes to be the highest at the beginning and have daily trading limits hit extensively," Credit Suisse said, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

"While we do expect participants to increase materially over time, southbound volumes were disappointing."

Shares in Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing fell 2.8 per cent on Tuesday after losing 4.45 per cent on Monday.

The creation of the trading platform is seen as a key step towards greater liberalisation in the world's second largest economy.

But it is subject to strict limits in order to preserve capital controls in China, where Communist authorities keep a tight grip on the yuan currency.

If an investor buys stocks in the other market, when they sell the money can only go back to their home market account, a so-called "closed path" to prevent "hot money" leaking out.

However, while Hong Kong dealers are keen to buy up companies in China, many mainland traders - who are usually elderly, private investors - are reluctant to go the other way, and enter a market with which they are not familiar.

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