April 13, 2017 / 5:13 AM / in a year

China stocks rise, Xiongan zone, economy in focus

* SSEC +0.1 pct, CSI300 +0.2 pct, HSI -0.1 pct

* 14 Chinese stocks with “Xiongan” concept suspend trading

* China tightening policies pressures stock valuation - brokerage

SHANGHAI, April 13 (Reuters) - Chinese stocks edged higher on Thursday as investors continued to bet on stocks that could benefit from Beijing’s plan to build the Xiongan economic zone, although sentiment on the mainland remains tempered by worries about a cooling economy.

Investor concerns centre on Beijing’s monetary tightening bias, even as China’s March trade data exceeded expectations. Also overhanging the market are regulators’ efforts to clamp down on speculation with 14 companies halting share trading.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index rose 0.2 percent, to 3,514.62 points by lunch break, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1 percent, to 3,277.88 points.

Hong Kong stocks were roughly flat as rising geopolitical risks continued to curb risk appetite.

Xiongan, through which China hopes to mimic the rapid growth seen following the establishment of a similar zone in Shenzhen in 1980, remains a hot investment theme, despite measures by regulators to cool speculation.

However, brokerage Shenwan Hongyuan said in its latest strategy report that thematic investments in concepts such as Xiongan are unlikely to change the current “range-trading” pattern of the market.

“Under the current macro environment, the government is stepping on the brakes using a combination of policy tools, such as real estate curbs and higher repo rates,” analyst Yao Liqi wrote.

“In such a backdrop, the market is lowering growth expectations and anticipating higher interest rates, thus, putting pressure on stock valuations.”

Fourteen Chinese companies suspended trading in their shares on Thursday, citing the need to further evaluate the potential impact on businesses from Xiongan. Some market participants suspect the concerted moves are the result of regulators’ intervention.

And although China’s March trade data was upbeat - exports rose 16.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports increased 20.3 percent - some analysts see downside prospects.

“A drop back in commodity price inflation explains some of the decline in import growth but import volume growth appears to have eased as well, suggesting that the tighter policy stance has begun to weigh on domestic demand,” Capital Economics wrote.

Most sectors in China were up on Thursday, but property stocks continued to struggle amid news of fresh curbs in some Chinese cities.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 0.1 percent, to 24,296.85 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index was unchanged at 10,212.39.

Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch; Editing by Sam Holmes

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