August 2, 2018 / 8:17 AM / 2 months ago

China, Hong Kong stocks end sharply lower as trade war, weaker confidence bite

* Shanghai Composite slumps 2 pct, CSI300 down 2.3 pct

* Hang Seng down 2.2 pct

* Broad-based selling extends losses from Wednesday

* Analysts point to trade war fears, weak data

* Vaccine scandal seen as hurting consumer firms

By Andrew Galbraith and Luoyan Liu

SHANGHAI, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Chinese shares slid on Thursday as Washington’s threats of higher tariffs heightened investors’ fears about the Sino-U.S. trade war, and as a vaccine scandal and signs of slowing domestic growth undermined market confidence.

U.S. President Donald Trump sought to ratchet up pressure on China for trade concessions by proposing a higher 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, his administration said on Wednesday.

At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was down 2 percent at 2,824.53 in heavy trade and the blue-chip CSI300 index fell 2.3 percent.

While the issues of trade protectionism, weak economic data and the vaccine scandal were broadly known in the market, analysts say the culmination of these negative factors has added to the general bearishness.

“Sentiment is confused at the moment, it’s hard to determine the market’s direction and investors don’t know how the situation will develop from here,” said Xiao Shijun, an analyst at Guodu Securities in Beijing.

A total of 17.42 billion shares were traded on the Shanghai exchange Thursday, 127.4 percent of the market’s 30-day moving average of 13.67 billion shares a day.

The smaller Shenzhen index ended 2.4 percent lower and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index fell 2.1 percent.

Shares in Hong Kong also fell, with the Hang Seng index and the China Enterprises Index both ending down 2.2 percent.

On Thursday, China’s state planner said that slower income growth and soft home sales were standing in the way of higher consumer spending growth in China.

The slump in share prices comes a day after the Shanghai Composite index fell 1.8 percent on trade worries and as property stocks dropped on speculation new measures to curb the rise of property prices may be in the pipeline.

The decline on Thursday, however, was more widespread with the CSI300’s financial sector sub-index lower by 2.5 percent, the consumer staples sector down 2.8 percent and the real estate index down 3.4 percent.

Yan Kaiwen, an analyst with China Fortune Securities, said that consumer firms were suffering from a “crisis of confidence” spreading from healthcare firms after a recent vaccine safety scandal sparked widespread anger and prompted investors to cut their exposure.

There are worries over the potential for negative news that might come from some firms that currently have high valuations, such as beverage and liquor makers, Yan said.

The Shanghai Composite index is the world’s second-worst-performing major stock index this year, having fallen 16.3 percent year-to-date. The CSI300, the world’s worst-performing index, has lost 16.4 percent.

As share prices fall, China’s state media has taken on the role of cheerleaders for Beijing’s economic leadership.

On Thursday, the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper sought to reassure readers amid signs of slowing growth, a weakening currency and a slump in markets by praising what it called the party’s “superb wisdom and skill” in managing the economy.

A second report in the newspaper said the country’s market risks were “generally controllable”.

Writing in Party magazine Qiushi, the chief economist of China’s National Bureau of Statistics said the fundamentals of China’s economic development would not change.

“The basis for making this judgment lies in the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and the potential for China’s economy to achieve high-quality development, great resilience and strong stamina,” Sheng Laiyun wrote. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith and Luoyan Liu; Additional reporting by the Liangping Gao in BEIJING; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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