* CSI300 +0.2 pct; SSEC: 0.2 pct; HSI: 0.6 pct
* China April flash HSBC PMI contracts to one-year low
* Net flow into China’s stock market totalled 781.4 billion yuan last week
By Samuel Shen and Pete Sweeney
SHANGHAI, April 23 (Reuters) - China stocks advanced to fresh seven-year highs on Thursday as weaker-than-expected factory activity data reinforced expectations that Beijing will roll out more stimulus measures and keep the financial system flush with cash.
The flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed that China’s factory activity in April contracted at its fastest pace in a year, suggesting that economic conditions are still deteriorating.
Investors also shrugged off the prospects of weaker company earnings. A Reuters survey showed that earnings growth at China-listed companies is likely to be the slowest in three years in 2015.
“No one cares about price/earnings ratios, or price/book ratios now. Investors only care about the attitude of the government, which has so far appeared tolerant (of the rise),” said Du Changchun, analyst at Northeast Securities in Shanghai.
“Upward momentum is still very strong, as money keeps flooding in. I don’t dare to forecast the market’s peak.”
The CSI300 index rose 0.2 percent to 4,751.24 points by midday, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2 percent to 4,407.72 points.
The Hang Seng index added 0.6 percent to 28,091.63 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index gained 0.4 percent to 14,722.25.
Despite the market’s 80 percent surge since last November, new investors keep piling in. Last week alone, there was a net flow of 781.4 billion yuan ($126.08 billion) into the stock market, marking the fourth consecutive week of net inflows.
And new stock trading accounts hit a record 3.3 million last week, almost doubling from the previous week, although that also reflected a rule change that let investors open multiple share accounts.
In the words of UBS’ Asian strategists, the action seen in Chinese stocks is what happens “when ‘Animal Spirits’ meet liquidity.”
Earlier this week, The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), intervened in the currency market again, selling Hong Kong dollars to keep the local currency within the trading band against the U.S. dollar, reflecting strong money inflows.
Chinese steelmakers rose sharply as investors’ interest shifts to some relatively cheaper cyclical stocks. Internet-related stocks were also strong.
Great Wall Motor jumped 8.8 percent in Hong Kong and 5 percent in Shanghai after German publication Manager Magazin reported that German auto giant Volkswagen AG is in talks with the Chinese automaker about co-operation or even an equity stake. ($1 = 6.1976 Chinese yuan) (Editing by Kim Coghill)