A landmark trading link between Hong Kong and Shanghai's stock exchanges officially launched on Monday, in a move that is expected to see billions of dollars in daily cross-border transactions and partially open up China's closeted equities markets.
At the opening ceremony, Charles Li, chief executive of Hong Kong's stock exchange declared it a "historic" moment and hailed a "new era" of trade, while chairman Chow Chung Kong said it was a "breakthrough in the opening up of China's financial market".
The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect scheme is expected to allow the equivalent of US$3.8 billion a day in cross-border transactions. It will enable international investors to trade selected stocks on Shanghai's tightly restricted exchange and let mainland investors buy shares in Hong Kong.
However, in the first few minutes of trade Hong Kong stocks slipped -- dropping 0.58 percent, or 140.33 points, to 23947.05. Shanghai shares rose 0.14 percent, or 3.57 points, to 2,482.39.
At the opening ceremony in Shanghai, Xiao Gang, head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said the new platform was "conducive to the internationalisation of the renminbi".
He added: "Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect is a major initiative to promote mutual opening up of the capital markets in the two cities. It’s a major institutional innovation of the capital markets.
"China’s capital markets now face historic opportunities."
The creation of the trading platform is seen as a key step towards greater financial liberalisation in the world's second largest economy.
But it is subject to strict limits in order to preserve capital controls in China, where Communist authorities keep a tight grip on the yuan currency.
Beijing has granted an initial cumulative quota of 250 billion yuan ($41 billion) for trading of Hong Kong stocks, while 300 billion yuan will be allowed for the Shanghai market, with daily allowances of 10.5 and 13 billion yuan respectively.