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Hang Seng Index

The Hang Seng Index tracks the 40 or so largest companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Asia's third-largest exchange.

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The Hang Seng Index was launched in 1969 and its member stocks now represent roughly two-thirds of the Hong Kong exchange's market capitalization. Under British rule for a century, Hong Kong thrived commercially and financially, while China did not fare so well. The two were reunited in 1997, and although Hong Kong is still considered a separate entity economically, many Chinese companies choose to list on the Hong Kong exchange due to the high prestige it has with foreign investors. As China has risen in prominence over recent decades, so has the Hong Kong exchange.

The Hang Seng is now one of the more followed benchmark indexes in the world. In addition to being one of the three largest exchanges in Asia, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange includes plenty of China stocks, an emerging economy where many investors are making money and plan to make more.

The Hang Seng Bank runs the Hang Seng indexes. There is the Hang Seng Index, as well as the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, the Hang Seng China H-Financials Index, and more. The bank operates market-tracking indexes comprised of various related stocks, as does the Nasdaq in America.

Aluminum Corp. of China, PetroChina, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Mobile, and HSBC were just five of the 40 or so companies in the main index in the fall of 2008 -- recognizable names to U.S. investors.

Hang Seng Bank says its name, in Chinese, means "ever-growing."

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