* Shanghai stocks +0.41 pct, blue-chip CSI300 +0.56 pct
* China Merchants Bank leads gains in financials
* Yuan firms slightly to 6.7855 per dollar
SHANGHAI, Jan 24 (Reuters) - China’s main stock indexes ended higher on Thursday as solid profit growth at China Merchants Bank lifted financial shares, but continued uncertainty over trade and the economy capped gains.
** At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.41 percent at 2,591.69. The blue-chip CSI300 index ended 0.56 percent higher. ** China’s economy can maintain sustainable rates of growth despite global uncertainties, Vice President Wang Qishan said on Wednesday, days after the world’s second-largest economy posted its weakest expansion in nearly three decades. ** The CSI financial sector sub-index ended 1.03 percent higher, with China Merchants Bank leading gains. The bank’s shares rose 2.58 percent after the lender said its preliminary net profit rose nearly 15 percent in 2018. ** China has approved a plan to set up a Nasdaq-style board for tech companies in Shanghai aimed at improving their ability to raise funds, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. A CSI index tracking IT firms finished 1.56 percent higher. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended up 0.46 percent and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was 1.122 percent higher. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.33 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 0.09 percent. ** At 07:15 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.7855 per U.S. dollar, 0.08 percent firmer than the previous close of 6.791. ** The largest percentage gainers on the main Shanghai Composite index were Harbin Dongan Auto Engine Co Ltd, up 10.09 percent, followed by Shanghai Industrial Development Co Ltd, gaining 10.08 percent, and Hunan Corun New Energy Co Ltd, up by 10.05 percent. ** The largest percentage losers on the Shanghai index were Eastern Gold Jade Co Ltd, down 9.92 percent, followed by Sichuan Hongda Co Ltd, losing 7.54 percent, and Xinjiang Winka Times Department Store Co Ltd , down by 7.28 percent. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is up 3.9 percent and the CSI300 has risen 4.9 percent, while China’s H-share index listed in Hong Kong is up 5.5 percent. ** About 15.40 billion shares were traded on the Shanghai exchange, roughly 110.7 percent of the market’s 30-day moving average of 13.92 billion shares a day. The volume in the previous trading session was 13.14 billion. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)