(REUTERS) - China shares edged higher on Friday, led by property stocks on expectations some curbs on the sector may be eased, while Hong Kong shares slipped on profit-booking in energy and financial stocks that had recorded strong gains earlier this year.
Disappointing trade data from China for January also added to the weakness in Hong Kong, as the magnitude of fall in imports raised concerns demand may be weaker than previously thought even allowing for Lunar New Year factory shutdowns.
On Friday, the Hang Seng index fell 1.1 percent to 20,783.86, retreating from its 250-day moving average at about 21,012. The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.1 percent to finish at 2,352, off its 100-day moving average, seen at around 2,359.
Both indexes gained this week, with the Hang Seng rising for a sixth week and the Shanghai Composite rising for a fourth.
The Shanghai Composite Index and the Hang Seng Index are up 7 and almost 13 percent respectively this year to date after a dismal 2011 in which they shaved about a fifth of their value.
Data on China bank loans released after markets closed on Friday may weigh on sentiment next week. Chinese banks lent 738.1 billion yuan ($117.3 billion) worth of new loans in the first month of 2012, weaker than the expected 1 trillion yuan.
Property shares on the mainland rose on a report that a Chinese third-tier city in eastern Anhui province has relaxed some restrictions on home purchases, a second positive development after Beijing committed to assisting first-time home buyers on Tuesday.
The Shanghai property sub-index rose 3 percent on Friday.
Beijing's move reflects that the administrative tightening policy on the local property market might have peaked, even though it is still uncertain when the tightening policy on the overall property market will ease, Julius Baer Greater China equity analysts said in a note to clients.
Poly Real Estate rose 3.3 percent, bringing its weekly gain to 2.2 percent. The sector was hit earlier this week by slumping sales figures from Shenzhen-listed China Vanke , the country's largest developer by sales.
In Hong Kong, Evergrande rose 3 percent in more than twice its 30-day volume, while China Resources Land gained 0.5 percent.
But a Hong Kong-based trader said he remains negative on the sector, suggesting that Chinese buyers are aware of the oversupply and are happy to wait for prices to drop further.
HONG KONG BANKS, ENERGY SHARES SLIP
In Hong Kong, China bank and energy shares dropped on Friday as the higher-than-expected inflation in January has reduced expectations of a reserve ratio cut.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and China Construction Bank (CCB) each slipped more than 2 percent, while PetroChina lost 1.9 percent.
Bank of Communications lost 5 percent after IFR reported late on Thursday that China's fifth-largest bank by assets, plans to raise 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) through a private share placement to meet stricter bank capital requirements.
Shares of Alibaba.com remained suspended in Hong Kong, pending an announcement from parent Alibaba Group. Sources told Reuters that the parent may take the Hong Hong-listed unit private and is working with Yahoo on an asset-swap deal.
Traders are on the lookout for an index rebalancing announcement for the Hang Seng as well as the China Enterprises Index that was expected after the market close.
According to BNP Paribas, Macau gaming counters Sands China and Wynn Macau are likely candidates for inclusion into the Hang Seng Index, marking the first time the fast-growing casino industry will find representation.
The addition of either company would spark a rush from passive investors such as exchange-traded funds which track indexes to buy the shares.