China stocks slipped as trade data released on Wednesday showed exports and imports contracted sharply in November, halting the earlier advances made on hopes for an announcement on looser anti-COVID restrictions.
The blue-chip CSI 300 Index was down 0.2% by the end of the morning session, and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.4%.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index and Hang Seng China Enterprises Index both edged up 0.2%, as investors there held on to the positive sentiment generated by expectations that the government in Beijing would soon announce an easing of China's COVID restrictions.
Other Asian stockmarkets also weakened as reality bit on hopes for a soft economic landing in the United States, and investors turned cautious over how fast China would loosen its anti-COVID curbs.
China's exports in November contracted 8.7% from a year earlier, while imports tumbled 10.6%, both missing expectations by large margins, due to a weakening global demand and COVID outbreaks at home.
China should optimise epidemic prevention and control measures next year as it seeks to better coordinate policies with economic and social development, state media reported on Wednesday, after a meeting of the Communist Party's politburo.
The meeting also said China will focus on stabilising growth, employment and prices while preventing and defusing major systemic risks.
"The Politburo meeting sent positive messages for economic policies next year," said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. "I'd expect policies to become more market friendly in 2023."
Investors are now putting their focus on the upcoming Central Economic Working Conference in the month, where Zhang expected more proactive policies to be announced than last year's.
Real estate developers dropped nearly 3%, energy fell 2.1%, while new energy shares went up 1.4%.
Chinese property developer Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd said it plans to raise HK$4.7 billion ($603.9 million) via a share placement in Hong Kong, sending the company's shares down nearly 10%.
Hong Kong-listed mainland property developers also declined 3.2%.
Macau casino operators jumped 5.5%, sending their weekly gain to more than 20%, on improved earning outlook as China eases COVID curbs.
Hong Kong shares in consumer discretionary and healthcare added 2.4% and 3.3%, respectively. (Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)