* CSI300 -1.4 pct; SSEC -1.6 pct; HIS +2.7 pct
* Stronger yuan offsets impact from disappointing trade data
* Gold stocks in China surge on rising gold prices
SHANGHAI, Feb 15 (Reuters) - China stocks fell on Monday morning, but losses were mitigated by a sharply stronger yuan and a surge in gold shares after the market reopened from the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.
A slump in Chinese-listed shares in Hong Kong and a global sell-off last week driven by falling commodity prices and concerns about the impact on European banks, had put investors on edge ahead of the reopening of China’s stock markets.
But even with disappointing Chinese trade data early in the session, initial losses were pared by the midday break. Exports fell 11.2 percent in January from a year earlier and imports tumbled 18.8 percent, both far worse than expected.
China’s blue-chip CSI300 index was down 1.4 percent, at 2,921.23 points, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.6 percent, to 2,720.03 points.
Hong Kong stocks, which sank to 3-1/2 lows on Friday, staged a sharp rally, taking cues from a jump in Japan equities on Monday and a Friday rebound in U.S. and European markets.
The Hang Seng index jumped 2.7 percent, to 18,819.59 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index surged 4.3 percent, to 7,829.12.
Chinese Investors drew some comfort from a firmer yuan , which on Monday hit its strongest level against the U.S. dollar in 2016. China central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said over the weekend in local media that there was no basis for the yuan to keep depreciating, while hinting that the government would punish currency speculators.
“Today’s investor sentiment in China’s stock market is damped by last week’s global equity sell-off, but the impact could be temporary,” said Zeng Yan, strategist at Zhongtai Securities Co.
“The central bank will likely maintain yuan stability in the short term, so yuan depreciation is no longer a major risk the market is facing right now.”
Most sectors fell on Monday, but gold producers surged as investors bet they would benefit from a flight to safe haven assets such as gold.
Shandong Gold Mining Co, Western Region Gold Co and Zhongjin Gold Corp all jumped by their 10 percent daily limit.
In Hong Kong, shares rose across the board, with energy and resources shares among the biggest gainers.
Reporting by Samuel Shen and Nathaniel Taplin; Editing by Jacqueline Wong