March 26, 2020 / 7:37 AM / 7 days ago

China shares end lower as imported coronavirus cases rise

* Shanghai Composite index -0.6%; CSI300 -0.66%

* China reports no local infections, but imported cases rise

* U.S. stimulus bill passage provides brief lift to HK shares

SHANGHAI, March 26 (Reuters) - Chinese shares settled lower on Thursday as investors took profits after two days of strong gains, and as a rise in imported cases of coronavirus prompted Beijing to tighten controls to prevent a resurgence of infections. ** At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was down 0.6% at 2,764.91. ** The blue-chip CSI300 index was down 0.66%, with its financial sector sub-index lower by 0.27%, the consumer staples sector down 0.45%, the real estate index down 0.82% and the healthcare sub-index up 1.75%. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended down 0.8% and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was weaker by 0.546%. ** Mainland China reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus infections as the epicentre of the epidemic Hubei province opened its borders, but imported cases rose as Beijing ramped up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections. ** The U.S. Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a $2 trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the pandemic, as well as providing billions of dollars to buy urgently needed medical equipment. ** The passage of the bill provided a brief lift to shares in Hong Kong, but the Hang Seng index was down 0.78% in late afternoon trade. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.81%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 4.51% on worries of tougher domestic restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus. ** At 07:15 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 7.0964 per U.S. dollar, 0.18% firmer than the previous close of 7.1095. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is down 9.4% and the CSI300 has fallen 9.7%, while China’s H-share index listed in Hong Kong is down 15.3%. Shanghai stocks have declined 4.01% this month. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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