* SSEC -0.18 pct, CSI300 flat
* Mkts erase earlier gains on weak industrial profit data
* Yuan hits strongest level in six months
SHANGHAI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - China stocks ended lower on Monday as downbeat industrial profit data reinforced concerns about a slowing economy and dashed hopes that the new head of the country’s securities regulator could help boost a struggling market.
** At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was down 0.18 percent at 2,596.98, giving up earlier gains. The blue-chip CSI300 index was down just 0.02 percent. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended down 0.38 percent and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was weaker by 0.454 percent. ** Curbing market sentiment, earnings at China’s industrial firms shrank for a second straight month in December on slowing prices and sluggish factory activity. ** China has appointed banking veteran Yi Huiman to head the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), putting governance of the nation’s stock markets in his hands at a time when investor confidence has been hit by a slowing economy and U.S. tariffs. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.02 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 0.6 percent. ** At 07:15 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.7368 per U.S. dollar, 0.17 percent firmer than the previous close of 6.7485. The currency hit its strongest level against the dollar in more than six months on Monday. ** The largest percentage gainers on the main Shanghai Composite index were Chongqing Dima Industry Co Ltd, up 10.14 percent, followed by Beijing Bashi Media Co Ltd, gaining 10.13 percent, and Zhejiang Jiaao Enprotech Stock Co Ltd , up by 10.01 percent. ** The largest percentage losers on the Shanghai index were ARTS Group Co Ltd, down 9.99 percent, followed by Wuhan Bester Group Telecom Co Ltd, losing 9.99 percent, and Xinhua Winshare Publishing and Media Co Ltd, down by 9.99 percent. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is up 4.1 percent and the CSI300 has risen 5.8 percent, while China’s H-share index listed in Hong Kong is up 7.4 percent. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)