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Time for one last throw of the dice

It has been a dismal start to Hong Kong's trading year, with the Hang Seng off 1,000 points from the year-end. As the market looks increasingly sick, even the red-hot M shares (Euromoney January 2005) drawing on Macau's casino boom have started to feel the chill, with most of them sharply down.

A sign that Hong Kong's punters are coming to their senses? Not exactly: not all the sour sentiment towards Macau concept shares is due to New Year blues. A culprit for spoiling the party, say dealers, is the Chinese government, which is puzzling since it was the mainland authorities that helped trigger the craze in the first place.

?There are a lot of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong and management have a pocket full of cash,? says a local fund manager. ?They're going to Macau to spend it. It's boiling over; there's a lot of hungry Chinese groups that want a piece of the action. Everyone and their wives are over there trying to do things.?

Now it seems the central government is taking a dim view of its nationals blowing ill-gotten gains in the enclave, especially when they could be doing it in China proper.

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