March 19, 2020 / 7:55 AM / 13 days ago

China stocks end lower; losses capped on policy hopes

SHANGHAI, March 19 (Reuters) - China stocks ended lower on Thursday, but losses were limited as investors expected further stimulus measures from policymakers to shield the world’s second-largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 1.3%, to 3,589.09, while the Shanghai Composite Index shed 1% to 2,702.13 points.

** Both indexes were down more than 3% in morning trade, joining a global rout as emergency central bank measures in Europe, the United States and Australia failed to halt a fresh wave of panic selling.

** The short-term relative strength in the A-share market is mainly due to better liquidity conditions as a result of a high level of turnover, as market participants have sufficient expectations of policy support from Beijing, said Song Jin, analyst with Nomura Orient International Securities.

** Analysts are slashing their growth forecasts for China to lows not seen since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, as the coronavirus outbreak takes its toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

** Chinese policymakers have already implemented a raft of measures to support an economy jolted by the outbreak, which is expected to have a devastating impact on first-quarter growth.

** Also providing some support were signs that the virus has been brought under control in the country.

** The central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, reported no new infections for the first time, while imported cases surged by a record, led by new infections in the capital of Beijing.

** Chinese scientists and health experts involved in the country’s fight against the coronavirus believe the worst is now over, downplaying warnings that the disease could become seasonal or that a deadlier “second wave” could hit later in the year.

** However, foreign investors continued to retreat, selling more than 9 billion yuan worth of A-shares via the Stock Connect linking mainland and Hong Kong.

** The recent outflows were rather firm, as foreign investors would first reduce exposure to emerging markets when shunning risks, Nomura’s Song said.

** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was weaker by 4.24%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 1.04%.

** At 07:21 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 7.0767 per U.S. dollar, 0.43% weaker than the previous close of 7.0465.

** As of 07:22 GMT, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 34.65% over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares. (Reporting by Luoyan Liu and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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