* CSI300 +0.4 pct; SSEC +0.4 pct; Hong Kong closed
* Banks up on expectations of reserve rate cut - analyst
* Outstanding margin loans rise over the past 9 sessions
SHANGHAI, Oct 21 (Reuters) - China stocks ended Wednesday morning firmer as banking heavyweights took the baton from small-caps in keeping the market’s upward momentum alive.
The Hong Kong market is closed on Wednesday for a public holiday.
Both the CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4 percent by lunch time, to 3,592.35 points and 3,438.78 points respectively.
But Shenzhen’s tech-heavy start-up board ChiNext weakened after some investors took profits after strong gains recently.
“There appeared to be profit-taking in several sectors after the recent strong performance of some of those stocks, particularly in the media and IT sectors,” wrote Gerry Alfonso, director at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities Co.
He attributed Wednesday’s strength in banking stocks to expectations of further cuts in banks’ required reserve ratios, which would be “clearly a positive development for the sector”.
The market also seemed to respond positively to news that Fang Xinghai, a financial industry veteran with a Ph.D in economics from Stanford University, will be appointed deputy chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).
An exodus of Western-educated officials from CSRC has been blamed for contributing to the recent boom-and-bust of China’s stock market, and the unpopular government handling of the crisis.
Reflecting improved investor sentiment, outstanding margin loans have grown in each of the past nine sessions, while the number of new investors last week also rose sharply from the previous week.
Strong gains on Wednesday morning in banking, infrastructure and healthcare stocks offset losses in sectors such as IT and energy. (Reporting by Samuel Shen and Pete Sweeney; Editing by Richard Borsuk)