* CSI300 +0.4 pct; SSEC 0.4 pct; HSI 0.3 pct
* CSI, SSEC see strong gains on the week, HK falls
* Banks extend ruse after China unveils debt swap details
* Inventors encouraged by faster-than-expected credit expansion
SHANGHAI, March 13 (Reuters) - China’s main stock indexes rose to two-month highs on Friday, fuelled by a second-day surge in banking shares after Beijing unveiled details of a local government debt swap scheme which analysts say would bolster lenders’ balance sheets.
Investors were also encouraged by unexpectedly strong credit expansion in February and remarks by central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan on Thursday that showed government support for the stock market.
China’s finance ministry said late on Thursday that more than half of the high-interest local government debt falling due in 2015, totalling 1 trillion yuan ($159.80 billion), will be covered under an impending debt swap, into official municipal or provincial debt.
“This is really good news for banks, because after the swap, these debts get quasi-state backing and the risks of default are greatly reduced,” said Luo Wenbo, analyst at Qilu Securities Co.
Banking shares, which surged more than 5 percent on average on Thursday in expectation of the announcement, extended gains on Friday, boosting benchmark indexes.
The CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index both rose 0.4 percent by the midday break, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended the morning up 0.3 percent, also taking cues from buoyant global equity markets.
For the week, the CSI300 and SSEC looked set for gains of 3.7 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively, while the HSI fell 1.2 percent.
Investors worried about China’s slowing economy have also been emboldened by signs of accelerated monetary easing.
Chinese banks extended 1.02 trillion yuan ($162.9 billion) of new loans in February, well above market expectations, while growth in broad money supply quickened.
“February loan growth far exceeded our expectations,” investment bank China International Capital Corp (CICC) said in a note to clients on Friday.
“Improvement in the economy is better than expected ... as credit demand has been gradually increasing,” CICC said, adding that 500 billion yuan of fresh capital could have flowed into the stock market during the first two months of the year.
Official data also suggest rising investor interest in stocks. THe outstanding value of margin financing, or the amount of money investors borrow to buy stocks, rose to a record 878 billion yuan in Shanghai on Thursday, the seventh consecutive session of gains.
Central bank governor Zhou told a news conference in Beijing that the stock market can help channel money into the real economy, easing concerns that the government may deem the market too speculative. ($1 = 6.2579 yuan) (Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada; Editing by Kim Coghill)