China's blue chips end at 8-month high on hopes of lower financing costs

SHANGHAI, Dec 30 (Reuters) - China’s blue-chip index closed at an eight-month high on Monday, as the country’s central bank planned to switch benchmark for floating-rate loans to lower funding costs, while investors cheered signs of economic resilience following a Sino-U.S. trade truce.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index rose 1.5% to 4,081.63, its highest closing level since April 19, while the Shanghai Composite Index ended up 1.2% at 3,040.02.

** China’s central bank said on Saturday it will use the loan prime rate (LPR) as a new benchmark for pricing existing floating-rate loans, in a step that analysts say could help lower borrowing costs and underpin economic growth.

** “The purpose of the step is to make interest rates more market-driven and help lower financing costs,” said Wen Bin, an economist at Minsheng Bank in Beijing.

** Overall, it’s a favourable news for the equities market, though the impact on bond market could be quite limited, Huatai Securities said in a report.

** Signs of recovery in the economy also added to optimism for the moment.

** China’s factory activity likely expanded again in December on stronger external demand and an infrastructure push at home, but the pace of growth is set to ease as markets await more certainty on a U.S.-China trade truce, a Reuters poll showed.

** The poll followed data showing profits at China’s industrial firms grew at the fastest pace in eight months in November.

** The Commerce Ministry has “proactively dealt with” trade frictions with the United States this year, it said on Sunday after an annual work conference.

** Consumer and securities firms led the gains, while banks sagged as their profitability is likely to be hit by the LPR move.

** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.08% while Japan’s Nikkei index was down 0.76%.

** The yuan was quoted at 6.9847 per U.S. dollar, 0.16% firmer than the previous close of 6.9956.

** As of 0707 GMT, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 26.24% over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares.

$1 = 6.9856 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Luoyan Liu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Rashmi Aich