Hong Kong shares ended higher for a sixth-straight session on Friday, though profit-taking capped gains after a January rally that has boosted the benchmark Hang Seng Index by more than 11 percent.
Gains in global supply chain manager Li & Fung and China's two biggest telecoms firms outweighed losses in recent outperformers, such as PetroChina and China Life Insurance.
The Hang Seng Index ended 0.3 percent higher at 20,501.7 points, roughly in the middle of its trading range for the day after failing to breach chart resistance at about 20,604, its 200-day moving average. The market was closed early in the week for Chinese New Year holidays, and reopened on Thursday.
The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong also rose 0.3 percent, taking its gains for the year to date to 15 percent. Financial markets in mainland China were closed all week and will reopen on Monday.
It's a good time to take some profits right now but I think there's still some more upside to this rally going into month's end, Patrick Yiu, managing director of CASH Asset Management, told Reuters.
Before Friday, PetroChina and China Life Insurance had risen 19.3 and 20.3 percent, respectively, so far in January, key drivers of the New Year rally. On Friday, both were key drags on the Hang Seng Index, down 0.9 percent each.
Li & Fung rose 3.4 percent in more than thrice its 30-day average volume after the consumer goods exporter announced the first acquisition by its regional distribution arm LF Asia, fuelling hopes for accelerating expansion.
Li & Fung, a major supplier of merchandise to U.S. retailers Target Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc, closed at its highest since May 20 last year. It has surged 28 percent in January to date, also partly on the back of an improving U.S. economy.
China Mobile gained 1.9 percent and was the Hang Seng Index's top boost. Smaller peer, China Unicom, which was among the best performers in 2011 as investors sought the relative safety of its perceived steady earnings growth, climbed 2.2 percent.
In a note late on Thursday, Nomura analysts reaffirmed their buy ratings on both stocks, remaining optimistic on their 3G potential -- despite a divided consensus on Unicom.
DOES THE RALLY HAVE LEGS?
If the Hang Seng Index can breach its 200-day moving average, the next upside target is seen at 20,975-21,017, the highs reached in September and August last year, respectively.
Market watchers said that while they see some more room to go in this rally, it could be capped at the 21,017 level, which is also the bottom of a gap that opened up between Aug. 4 and 5.
U.S. fourth-quarter GDP data later on Friday and China manufacturing data early next week could be major catalysts.
Recent U.S. data has showed a steady, albeit gradual, increase in momentum for the economy, which could offset worries about the global impact of Europe's prolonged debt crisis.
China manufacturing surveys, meanwhile, may point to further sluggishness in factory activity, boosting expectations of monetary policy easing that could encourage fresh buying in Chinese banks.
On Friday, the sector was largely firmer. The mainland's largest lender, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) gained 0.9 percent, while Bank of Communication (BComm) rose 1.8 percent.