March 5, 2020 / 7:40 AM / 25 days ago

China blue-chips rise to 7-week high on policy support hopes

* CSI300 up 2.2%, hits highest since Jan. 14

* Shanghai shares add 2%, touch six-week high

* China could ease policy to cushion coronavirus shock - analysts

* Jan-Feb exports, imports seen slumping amid disruption - poll

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI, March 5 (Reuters) - Blue-chip stocks in China climbed more than 2% to seven-week highs on Thursday, as investors expected more policy support from Beijing after major central banks cut rates to soothe the economic pain of the coronavirus epidemic.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index jumped 2.2%, hitting its highest level since Jan. 14. The Shanghai Composite index reached its six-week high during the afternoon session and settled 2% higher at 3,071.68.

** CSI300’s financial sector sub-index was higher by 2.4%, the consumer staples sector rallied 4.3%, the real estate index edged up 0.5% and the healthcare sub-index was up 2.8%.

** The smaller Shenzhen index ended up 1.8% and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index rose 1.9%.

** Markets widely believe authorities will continue to move to lower financing costs for businesses and roll out measures to prop up the economy despite the central bank holding a short-term interest rate this week.

** The widening economic fallout of the virus has prompted policymakers around the world to step up monetary support, including an emergency 50 basis point interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Brokerage Chuancai Securities said on Thursday that gives Beijing more room to ease its policy.

** “As the extent of the damage becomes evident into March and April, policymakers will likely continue to drip-feed the market with announcements of additional monetary and fiscal stimulus, pushing stocks higher despite abysmal first-quarter earnings expectations,” Thomas Gatley, China corporate analyst at Gavekal Research, wrote in a report.

** China’s exports and imports likely tumbled in the first two months of the year amid disruption to economic activity caused by the epidemic, a Reuters poll showed.

** Mainland China has seen a broad trend of new cases declining from mid-February. The number of cases rose to 139 on Wednesday, with most of the new infections from Wuhan. In the rest of mainland China, there were only five new cases.

** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 1.3%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 1.1%.

** At 0703 GMT, the yuan was 0.22% weaker at 6.9413 per U.S. dollar.

** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is up 0.7% and the CSI300 has risen 2.7%. Shanghai stocks have risen 6.6% this month.

** About 44.54 billion shares were traded on the Shanghai exchange, highest in more than a week. The volume in the previous trading session was 35.33 billion. (Reporting by Noah Sin and Luoyan Liu; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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