China stocks rise on GDP data, policy loan rate cut

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SHANGHAI, Jan 17 (Reuters) - China stocks rose on Monday after the country's economy grew faster than expected in the final quarter of 2021 but the growth was still at its weakest pace in one-and-half years, prompting the central bank to unexpectedly cut loan rates.

The CSI300 index (.CSI300) rose 0.9% to 4,767.59 points at the end of the morning session, while the Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) gained 0.6%, to 3,542.03 points.

The Hang Seng index (.HSI) dropped 0.6%, to 24,240.11 points. The Hong Kong China Enterprises Index (.HSCE) lost 1.0%, to 8,470.22.

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** China's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 4.0% in the October-December period from a year earlier, and the economy grew 8.1% in 2021, faster than a forecast 8.0%. read more

** "We expect front-loaded policy support to prevent growth from falling significantly below 5% in 2022. This includes the MLF rate cut today. More generally, we expect strong infrastructure spending, robust credit growth, and support for the real estate sector this year." said Louis Kuijs, Head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics.

** Real estate developers (.CSI000952) gained 1.7%, after China expected the operation of its property market to keep pace with steady growth of investment in the sector this year.

** Information technology firms (.CSIINT) and semiconductors (.CSIH30184) added more than 2% each, after President Xi Jinping's essay on strengthening regulation and governance to boost China's "digital economy". read more

** New energy shares (.CSI399808), machinery firms (.CSI000812) and automobiles (.CSI931008) rose between 1.7% and 2%.

** In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Tech index (.HSTECH) fell 1%, with Tencent Holdings (0700.HK) and Meituan (3690.HK) down 1.7% and 2.1%, respectively.

** Sands China Ltd (1928.HK) surged 15.5% to become the biggest percentage gainer on the Hang Seng Index, and a sub-index tracking gaming stocks listed in Hong Kong (.CSICESG10) jumped 9%.

** Macau's government announced that the number of new casino operators allowed to function in the world's largest gambling hub would be limited to six with an operating period of up to 10 years. read more

** Mainland developers listed in Hong Kong (.HSMPI) retreated 3%.

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Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; editing by Uttaresh.V

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