February 18, 2019 / 7:59 AM / in 3 months

China blue chip index surges to over 6-month high on trade talks, loan data

* CSI300 +3.2 pct, SSEC +2.7 pct

* Strongest close for blue-chip index since Aug 1

* Trade progress, dollar weakness lift yuan

SHANGHAI, Feb 18 (Reuters) - China’s main stock indexes surged on Monday as investors cheered signs of progress in trade talks, and after banks extended record new loans in January, raising hopes that Beijing’s attempts to encourage lending and investment could boost growth.

China’s CSI300 index of blue-chip firms jumped 3.2 percent to 3,445.74 points, its highest close since Aug. 1. The Chinese index far outperformed other Asian markets.

It was the strongest gain for the index since Nov. 2, and easily topped its advance on the first day of trading after the U.S. and China on Dec. 1 agreed to a temporary ceasefire in their trade war.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index ended 2.7 percent higher at 2,754.36 points, its highest close since Sept. 28. Trading volumes were high, with about 26.04 billion shares traded on the Shanghai exchange, the most since March 23.

The smaller Shenzhen index ended up 3.71 percent and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index gained 4.11 percent.

Optimism that the U.S. and China will reach a deal to end their bruising trade war soared after negotiations in Beijing last week were seen by both countries as achieving progress.

After a briefing by his negotiating team, U.S. President Donald Trump pronounced on Twitter that the talks had been “very productive”, echoing a tone of optimism from Chinese state media.

Investor spirits were further lifted by data released Friday showing that China’s banks made a total of 3.23 trillion yuan ($477.79 billion) in new loans in January, the highest on record and exceeding expectations.

Growth of outstanding total social financing, a closely watched measure, rose to 10.4 percent from a record low of 9.8 percent in December.

Zhang Gang, an analyst at Central China Securities in Shanghai, said progress in trade talks and the new credit data were both drivers for Monday’s rally.

The loan data “is undoubtedly a sign of authorities’ efforts to encourage new credit to stimulate the economy. While it may not be sustainable, it definitely represents a signal, and raises strong expectations that they will be able to counter the economic slide,” he said.

“At the moment it seems like we may be near the end of the process of reaching an final agreement (on trade),” Zhang added. “There are some details that need to be worked out, but the market has relatively good expectations. This is in stark contrast with 2018.”

U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods will rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no deal is reached by March 1 to address U.S. demands that China curb forced technology transfers and better enforce intellectual property rights.

China’s yuan also gained on Monday on expectations of a trade detente. At 0728 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.762 per U.S. dollar, 0.19 percent firmer than its previous close of 6.775.

Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.95 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 1.82 percent. ($1 = 6.7603 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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