China, Hong Kong stocks fall on dimming growth prospects

SHANGHAI, Aug 18 (Reuters) - China and Hong Kong stocks fell on Thursday, hit by increasingly grim growth prospects for the world's second-largest economy suffering from COVID-19 outbreaks, a property crisis, a record heat wave and limited room for monetary easing.

** China's blue-chip CSI300 Index .CSI300 dropped 0.9%, while the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC lost 0.5%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng benchmark fell 0.6%.

** Nomura lowered its China economic growth forecast, citing dismal July activity data, the lingering impact from the pandemic, and the worst heave wave in six decades.

** "(The) policy response might be too little, too late and too inefficient," said Nomura, which slashed China's growth forecast to 2.9% for the third quarter, from 4.0%. 2023 GDP forecast is also lowered, to 5.1%, from 5.5%, and Nomura expects "a new round of cuts" in coming weeks by other brokerages.

** "Virus outbreaks are happening with increasing frequency. The housing market remains in a downward spiral. And exports look set to drop back before long," wrote Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China Economist at Capital Economics.

** "More support is on its way but it will probably be too late too little to prevent output from stagnating this year."

** Also, China's central bank faces limited room to manoeuvre due to worries over rising inflation and capital flight, policy insiders and analysts said.

** U.S. Federal Reserve officials steeled themselves to force the economy to slow down with more rate hikes to fight inflation, according to the minutes of the latest policy meeting.

** Increasing divergence in Sino-U.S. monetary policies could trigger capital flight out of China.

** Most sectors in China fell, but the start-up board ChiNext .CHINEXTC rose 0.2%, while the tech-heavy STAR 50 Index .STAR50 gained 1%.

** EVE Energy Co 300014.SZ jumped 3%, after Reuters reported that the Chinese battery maker will supply BMW BMWG.DE with large cylindrical batteries for its electric cars in Europe.

** Hong Kong's Hang Seng Tech Index .HSTECH fell 0.9%, but Tencent 0700.HK rose 3.1%, after the Chinese tech giant promised a return to growth, following its first-ever quarterly sales drop.
Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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