* SSEC -0.4 pct, CSI300 -0.2 pct, HSI +0.1 pct
* China factory activity falls for third month in Feb
* U.S. trade chief sees long road ahead for U.S.-China trade issues
SHANGHAI, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Chinese equity indexes faltered on Thursday as new data showing weaker factory activity in February underscored concerns over slowing domestic growth, while comments from the chief U.S. negotiator trimmed trade resolution hopes for investors.
** At the midday break, the Shanghai Composite index shed early gains to slip 0.35 percent to 2,943.42 points. ** China’s blue-chip CSI300 index was down 0.21 percent, with its financial sector sub-index fell 0.77 percent. ** Chinese H-shares listed in Hong Kong dropped 0.26 percent to 11,427.34, while the Hang Seng Index edged 0.1 percent higher at 28,785.57. ** Factory activity in China contracted for the third straight month in February, and export orders fell to the lowest level since the global financial crisis, underscoring concerns over a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. ** U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday cautioned that much work was still needed to nail down a U.S.-China trade agreement, including working out how it will be enforced, and that the United States will need to maintain the threat of tariffs on Chinese goods for years even if Washington and Beijing strike a deal to end a costly tariff war. ** The smaller Shenzhen index was up 0.17 percent and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was higher by 0.67 percent. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was weaker by 0.16 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index was down 0.40 percent. ** The yuan was quoted at 6.6818 per U.S. dollar, 0.06 percent firmer than the previous close of 6.6855. ** The largest percentage gainers in the main Shanghai Composite index were Hualing Xingma Automobile Group Co Ltd, which climbed as much as 10.12 percent, followed by Shanghai Shenqi Pharmaceutical Investment Management Co Ltd, which rose up to 10.09 percent and Jiangsu Zijin Rural Commercial Bank Co Ltd, which climbed 10.05 percent. ** The largest percentage losses in the Shanghai index were Anxin Trust Co Ltd, which declined as much as 10.01 percent, followed by Shanghai AJ Group Co Ltd, which slipped up to 9.79 percent and Anhui Xinli Finance Co Ltd , which fell 8.67 percent. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index rose 18.44 percent, while China’s H-share index climbed 13.2 percent. Shanghai stocks jumped 14.29 percent this month. ** The top gainers among H-shares were China Tower Corp Ltd , which climbed up to 2.73 percent, followed by Shenzhou International Group Holdings Ltd, which gained 1.91 percent and Guangdong Investment Ltd, which rose 0.8 percent. ** The three biggest H-shares percentage decliners were Air China Ltd, which dropped up to 4.49 percent, Great Wall Motor Co Ltd, which lost 3.3 percent and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd, which slipped 3.1 percent. ** About 21.92 billion shares have traded so far on the Shanghai exchange, roughly 100.8 percent of the market’s 30-day moving average of 21.76 billion shares a day. The volume traded was 47.50 billion, as of last full trading day. ** In Hong Kong, the sub-index of the Hang Seng index tracking energy shares dipped 0.5 percent, while the IT sector edged 0.1 percent down. The top gainer on the Hang Seng was Shenzhou International Group Holdings Ltd, up 1.91 percent, while the biggest loser was China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd, which slipped 4.21 percent.
Reporting by Andrew Galbraith, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips