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Hong Kong Stocks Rise as Papademos Sees Progress on Debt Deal

Hong Kong stocks rose, pushing the Hang Seng Index to its biggest monthly gain since October, after Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said progress had been made in talks with the country’s creditors, easing concern Europe won’t be able to manage its debt crisis.

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., an operator of retail chains and ports that gets more than half its sales in Europe, rose 1.7 percent. Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. led developers higher before the announcement of a city budget tomorrow expected to include property-rate waivers. China Mobile Ltd. and China Telecom Corp. rose on speculation they will become distributors of Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

“We’ve seen some positive signs in Europe,” said Angus Gluskie, who oversees about $350 million as managing director at White Funds Management in Sydney. “We’re on a cusp of a Greek bond restructuring. They will agree on it but there will be some debate in the meantime.”

The Hang Seng Index gained 1.1 percent to 20,390.49 at the close in Hong Kong. The gauge has gained 11 percent this month amid speculation China will ease lending curbs and on signs the U.S. economy is weathering Europe’s crisis. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in the city rose 1.4 percent to 11,299.05 today.

Greek Prime Minister Papademos, speaking in Brussels after a European summit, said he was “strongly committed” to reaching an agreement with bondholders by the end of the week. A deal is crucial to lowering the Greece’s debt burden and freeing up another round of international aid before the country faces a 14.5 billion-euro ($19.1 billion) bond payment on March 20.

Cosco, Hutchison

Hutchison Whampoa rose 1.7 percent to HK$73.75. Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., a contract maker of mobile telephones, advanced 4.9 percent to HK$5.34.

Hong Kong stocks also rose after the Securities Times reported China may announce methods for local pensions to invest in the stock market as soon as the first quarter. As much as 30 percent of pension assets, or about 580 billion yuan ($92 billion), may be allowed for stock investment, the newspaper said, citing a person it didn’t identify.

China Mobile climbed 2.3 percent to HK$79.30. China Telecom added 3.6 percent to HK$4.36. Apple may add the carriers as iPhone distributors, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said in a note to clients.

Tomorrow’s Budget

Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang may hand out as much as HK$40 billion ($5.2 billion) in his last budget tomorrow, from tax rebates to property-rate waivers, as an economic slowdown starts to bite, according to estimates by KPMG Tax Ltd. Small and medium-sized businesses will get one-time tax rebates, Sing Tao Daily reported today, without citing anyone.

Property companies advanced. Cheung Kong rose 2.5 percent to HK$104.40. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., the world’s biggest developer by market value, increased 0.2 percent to HK$107.40.

The Hang Seng Index tumbled 20 percent last year amid concern China would continue to curb lending and Europe would fail to resolve its debt crisis.

Futures on the gauge advanced 0.5 percent to 20,357 today. The HSI Volatility Index dropped 4.4 percent to 23.62 today, indicating traders expect a swing of 6.8 percent on the benchmark over the next 30 days.

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