(Corrects spelling in paragraph 13)
* CSI300 +1.1 pct; SSEC 1.3 pct; HSI 0.7 pct
* SSEC heads for biggest weekly fall in 5 years on policy fears
* Investor interest shifts to small-cap, tech stocks
By Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada
SHANGHAI, May 8 (Reuters) - China’s main Shanghai Composite Index looked set for its biggest weekly loss in almost five years amid fears of a regulatory crackdown on risky bets, with a bruising, three-day sell-off only stemmed by a mild rebound on Friday.
The poor performance was triggered by signs of tighter regulatory scrutiny over margin lending, which has helped propel China’s stock market to a near doubling over the past year despite a flagging economy.
Data on Friday showed that China’s exports unexpectedly fell 6.4 percent in April from a year earlier, while imports tumbled by a deeper-than-forecast 16.2 percent.
But the dismal figures only reinforced investors’ convictions that Beijing will roll out more stimulus measures which could see more liquidity flow into the stock market.
“The continuation of negative export growth suggests that external demand has not yet improved much,” Nomura wrote.
“We continue to expect more policy easing to offset headwinds to economic growth.”
Gerry Alfonso, director of Shenwan Hongyuan Securities Co, said that the good sentiment on Friday morning was “likely caused by investors seeing opportunities after three days of corrections,” as well as stimulus expectations reinforced by poor trade figures.
The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 1.3 percent by midday to 4163.87 points, but was heading for a weekly loss of over 6 percent, its worse weekly performance since July, 2010.
The CSI300 index rose 1.1 percent to 4520.58 points, on track to end the week down around 4.8 percent, the biggest weekly loss since December 2013.
Hong Kong stocks were also up on Friday. The Hang Seng index rose 0.7 percent while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index advanced 1.3 percent.
Qi Yifeng, analyst at CEMB Group Ltd, said that the government is curbing margin financing because it wants the market to rise at a slower, more sustainable pace, rather than risking a sharp and unruly run-up that could end in a sudden destabilising crash.
“Investors are very clever,” he said. “As soon as they got the signal that regulators don’t want main indexes to rise too quickly, they dump index-heavyweights and continue to play small-cap stocks.”
Shenzhen’s start-up board ChiNext surged 4.2 percent on Friday morning to record highs, despite lofty valuations, which are illustrated by earnings multiples of over 100.
Technology related stocks also jumped, after the government vowed to vigorously promote e-commerce and expedite funding by Internet companies.
“Tech stocks have a bright future because they are key to China’s economic restructuring,” said Zhang Yunyi, general manager of Shanghai Hongyi Investment & Management Co.
“When you look at tech stocks, you don’t look at their earnings multiples, you look at their active user base, and growth prospects. But you cannot expect traditional industries such as steel making to grow 50-100 percent a year.”
Financial shares fell, while real estate shares underperformed the market. (Editing by Kim Coghill)