China shares track broader Asia higher on historic Fed support

SHANGHAI, March 24 (Reuters) - China stocks tracked broader Asia higher on Tuesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve rolled out a slew of support measures to ease a global cash crunch, although gains were capped due to a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases in China.

** At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was up 2.3% at 2,722.44.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index was up 2.7%, with its financial sector sub-index higher by 2.7%, while the consumer staples sector rose 3.5%, the real estate index gained 2.7% and the healthcare sub-index added 3.3%.

** The Fed said on Monday it would for the first time back purchases of corporate bonds, backstop direct loans to companies and expand its asset purchases by as much as needed to stabilise financial markets.

** Mainland China reported a doubling in new virus cases, driven by a jump in infected travellers returning home from overseas, raising the risk of transmissions in Chinese cities and provinces that had seen no new infections in recent days.

** The economy suffered through an “eye-popping” first quarter as the epidemic hammered business activity, with deterioration even as firms were supposed to be going back to work, a private survey showed.

** After surveying thousands of Chinese firms, China Beige Book International suggested that “a 10-11% GDP contraction in the first quarter is not unreasonable.”

** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 5.08%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 7.13%.

** At 07:53 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 7.0752 per U.S. dollar, 0.21% firmer than the previous close of 7.09.

** As of 07:54 GMT, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 30.24% over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares. (Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)