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People walk past an electronic billboard displaying the Hang Seng index

The Hang Seng index fell as much as 5.1% in morning trade, while the CSI 300 fell as much as 2% © Jérôme Favre/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Hong Kong and Chinese-listed shares fell sharply on Monday, as the delayed release of the country’s gross domestic product data sent tremors through markets.

The Hang Seng index fell as much as 5.1 percent in morning trading, while the CSI 300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed shares fell as much as 2 percent.

The declines followed the unscheduled release of China’s GDP figures and other economic data, which beat expectations with a 3.9 percent expansion but still recorded far lower growth than the country has become accustomed to in recent decades.

The jitters were compounded by the delay in the release of the data, originally scheduled for last Tuesday. The figures were released with little warning after China’s landmark 20th Party Congress, where leader Xi Jinping secured a record-breaking third term in the country’s most important political roles.

Xi showed little willingness to change tack from his strict zero-Covid policy during the conference. The policy, which seeks to eliminate cases of the virus with strict lockdowns, has hammered China’s growth prospects this year.

“This is panic selling,” said Dickie Wong, head of research at Kingston Securities in Hong Kong. “Quite obviously, investors are simply not confident about the future of the Chinese economy.”

In markets elsewhere, Japan’s Topix rose 0.4 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.9 percent. The moves followed sharp gains in the US on Friday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both rising more than 2 percent after a report that the Federal Reserve may slow the pace of rate hikes from December.

Oil prices fell after early gains, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, down 0.5 percent to trade at $93.03 a barrel and U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell by the same margin to $84.60.

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