Stock markets on the Chinese mainland diverged Friday after domestic manufacturing output was seen retreating in February.
The Shanghai Composite Index finished trading last week at 2,359.51 after dropping 6.08 points, or 0.26 percent; while the Shenzhen Component Index closed at 9,650.14 after gaining 8.7 points, or 0.09 percent.
Combined turnover at the two markets reached 222.8 billion yuan ($35.80 billion) Friday, up from 218.2 billion yuan Thursday.
Markets opened lower Friday and tracked downward into the late afternoon after the National Bureau of Statistics announced that China's official manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) for February, a widely watched measure of factory activity, slipped from a reading of 50.4 in January to 50.1 in February, the lowest reading since September and a cause of slight concern among investors who had been expecting stronger signs of recovery from the broader economy. Poor performances from financial sectors put further pressure on the markets and sent the Shanghai Composite sliding into negative territory by the end of the day.
On the up side, environmental protection shares flourished Friday as market participants priced in the possibility of policy support coming to the sector from the National People's Congress meetings scheduled to start this week. Zhongyuan Environmental Protection Co surged past its 10-percent daily trading limit to 13.60 yuan.
Among the financial shares which took a tumble Friday, New China Life Insurance Co shaved off 3.79 percent to 26.93 yuan. Meanwhile, China's largest lender by asset value, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd, declined 0.95 percent to 4.17 yuan. Avic Capital Co surrendered 1.99 percent to 15.80 yuan.
The heavily weighted financial and property sectors have been tipped by some analysts to lead a market rally in the days ahead, since many of the companies in these sectors are expected to disclose solid annual results from 2012 over the coming weeks.
Most analysts also agree that markets will be focused this week on news coming out of the Two Sessions in Beijing.
Gui Haoming, chief analyst at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities, warned however that while the meetings could give the markets a boost over the long run, they are unlikely to offer any quick fixes.
"We should be cautious of how the stock market will fare at least through early March," he wrote in an article published Saturday in the China Business News.
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