* Hang Seng rises 1.3% to July 2019 highs
* H-shares up 1.4%, strongest since last May
* Trump says will sign China deal this month, start fresh talks
* Chinese central bank to release fresh funds, effective Jan. 6
HONG KONG, Jan 2 (Reuters) - The Hong Kong stock market rose on Thursday to its highest level since last July, fuelled by hopes that Beijing and Washington will sign a trade pact this month to end their bruising tariff war.
** By the close of trade, the benchmark Hang Seng index was up 1.3% at 28,543.52 points, its highest since July 2019. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index was up 1.4% at its highest level since early May 2019. ** The sub-index of the Hang Seng tracking energy shares rose 0.5%, the IT sector gained 1.9%, the financial sector ended 1.5% higher and the property sector gained 0.4%. ** The first phase of a China trade deal will be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, adding that he would later travel to Beijing to begin talks on the next phase. ** Last week, Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would host a signing ceremony to seal the Phase 1 deal. ** China’s central bank said on Wednesday it was cutting the amount of cash that all banks must hold as reserves, with effect from Jan. 6, releasing funds of about 800 billion yuan ($114.91 billion) to shore up the slowing economy. ** The People’s Bank of China has now cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) eight times since early 2018, to free up more funds for banks to lend, as economic growth slows to the weakest pace in nearly 30 years. ** China’s factory activity expanded at a slower pace in December, but production growth was solid and business confidence shot up, a private survey showed on Thursday. ** About 1.26 billion Hang Seng index shares were traded. The volume traded in the last full-day trading session on December 30, 2019 was 1.42 billion. ** At the close, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 26.35% over Hong Kong-listed H-shares.
Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez