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Chinese Shares Lead Global Retreat After Rate Hike

PAN PYLAS

LONDON (AP) â¿¿ Chinese shares led a general stock market retreat Wednesday as investors in the country returned from their weeklong Lunar New Year holiday to be greeted by the second interest rate increase in a little over a month.

Though markets elsewhere have generally shrugged off the news on Tuesday that China's monetary authorities were raising interest rates again, property stocks took a pounding in Shanghai and in Hong Kong. One of the main motivations behind the interest rate increases is to boost incentives to save as opposed to risky speculative trades.

As a result, the benchmark Shanghai Composite dropped 0.9 percent to 2,774.07 and the Shenzhen Composite Index for China's smaller, second market was off 1 percent to 1,186.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.4 percent to 23,164.03.

Elsewhere, stock markets, particularly in Europe, took Tuesday's news in their stride. Despite being down slightly on Wednesday, many remain near their highest levels since June 2008.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 percent at 6,073.80 while Germany's DAX fell around 0.1 percent to 7,320. The CAC-40 in Paris was 0.1 percent lower too at 4,106.

Wall Street was poised for a modest retreat at the open, too â¿¿ Dow futures were down 0.2 percent at 12,179 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures fell 0.3 percent to 1,318.

Stocks have been buoyant of late, particularly in the U.S., where both the Dow and the S&P have pushed up above where they were in the summer of 2008, before the collapse of Lehman Brothers prompted the biggest bear market since World War II.

"Equity markets remain resilient in shrugging off a wide variety of potentially negative risks, whether it be political tensions in the Middle East, higher interest rates in emerging markets or rising inflation pressures," said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

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