Asia: Hang Seng settles in the red



LONDON (ShareCast) - Shares in Hong Kong retreated into negative territory on Monday, in lighter than usual trading, as traders fretted about the failure to reach fiscal cliff deal.

The Hang Seng fell 9 points at 22,656 in Hong Kong while the benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 72 points at 10,395 on Friday. Japanese markets were closed on Monday for a New Year's Eve holiday. Stocks markets in South Korea and Taiwan were also closed.

Markets mulled encouraging Chinese manufacturing data. HSBC (LSE: HSBA.L - news) 's final reading of the China manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index improved to 51.5 in December compared to a preliminary figure of 50.9. November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) 's PMI reading stood at 50.5.

However sentiment was hurt by concern that US politicians had failed to reach a deal to avert the so called 'fiscal cliff' which kicks in on Tuesday.

Resource stocks headed lower despite the upbeat Chinese manufacturing data. Shares of Aluminum Corp of China retreated 0.4% while Cnooc (HKSE: 0883.HK - news) 0.34%.

Among financials heavyweight HSBC declined 0.73%, Bank of China added 0.58% while Hang Seng Bank added 0.17%.

Insurers were mostly higher with Ping An Insurance up 1.8% while China Life Insurance gained 3.26%.