* SSEC -0.5%, CSI300 -0.5%, HSI -0.1%, HSCE -0.2%
* Epicentre’s new cases break record after method tweak
* China says will cushion epidemic’s economic impact
SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Shares in China fell on Thursday, recoiling after a week-long streak of gains, after new cases of the coronavirus soared and death toll leapt at the epicentre of the outbreak.
** At the midday break, the Shanghai Composite index was down 0.5% at 2,911.35 points. The blue-chip CSI300 index also fell 0.5%. ** CSI300’s financial sector sub-index fell 0.4%, the consumer staples sector was down 0.5%, the real estate index rose 2.7% and the healthcare sub-index dropped 1.4%. ** Chinese H-shares listed in Hong Kong fell 0.2%, while the Hang Seng Index edged down 0.1% to 27,784.07. ** The smaller Shenzhen index fell 0.7% and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was weaker by nearly 1%. ** The Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, reported a record rise in the daily death toll on Thursday under a new method for diagnosing cases, as health experts warned the epidemic could get worse before it gets better. ** The rise in the death toll, at 242, more than doubled the prior provincial daily record of 103 set on Monday, while the number of new cases soared by 14,840 - also a daily record - to a total of 48,206 cases.
** The head of the Communist Party in Hubei has been relieved of duty, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
** China’s ruling Communist Party said on Monday it would take steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus and counter the epidemic’s economic impact, state broadcaster CCTV reported. ** Beijing is expected to further step up counter-cyclical measures as the impact of the epidemic on China’s economy gradually emerges, Guosheng Securities said after the meeting.
** Chinese policymakers have already implemented a series of measures to support an economy jolted by the outbreak.
** Capital Economics said in a note on Wednesday it expects first-quarter economic growth in China to drop four percentage points to around 2% from a year earlier, and forecasts the economy will contract 2.5% on a quarter-on-quarter basis, before a likely bounce in spring if the outbreak abates. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was flat, while Japan’s Nikkei index was down 0.1%. ** The yuan was 0.12% weaker at 6.9804 per U.S. dollar. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is down 4.6%, while the CSI300 index is down 3.2%.
Reporting by Luoyan Liu and Noah Sin; Editing by Aditya Soni