SHANGHAI, March 19 (Reuters) - China’s main stock indexes ended lower on Tuesday, pulling back from near 6-1/2-month highs in the previous session, on profit taking, but losses were limited by hopes for continued government support for the economy and a dovish U.S. Fed.
** The Shanghai Composite index fell 0.18 percent to 3,090.98. ** The blue-chip CSI300 index was down 0.46 percent, with its financial sector sub-index lower by 0.54 percent. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended up 0.18 percent and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index added 0.11 percent. ** China’s housing ministry said it would slash the time needed to obtain approvals for housing projects, in line with China’s intent to speed up infrastructure spending this year and have a construction boom as part of its efforts to lift domestic demand and economic growth, which has slowed. ** Investors are also looking to the policy meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve this week for signs of dovishness, including whether policymakers have lowered their interest rate forecasts to more closely align their “dot plot”, a diagram showing individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years. ** In contrast to broader market declines, nuclear power-related stocks surged after environmental impact assessments (EIA) for two nuclear power plant projects were submitted for approval to regulators on Monday, a vital stage in the resumption of China’s atomic energy programme after a three-year halt in new approvals. ** State-owned China National Nuclear Power jumped as much as 10 percent to its highest since April 2018, before trimming gains. It closed up 2.94 percent. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index eased 0.02 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 0.08 percent. ** At 07:15 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.7188 per U.S. dollar, 0.08 percent weaker than the previous close of 6.7135. ** The largest percentage gainers in the main Shanghai Composite index were Lanzhou LS Heavy Equipment Co Ltd, up 10.09 percent, followed by Hunan Chen Dian International Development Co Ltd, gaining 10.04 percent and Jiangsu Rutong Petro-Machinery Co Ltd, up by 10.04 percent. ** The largest percentage losers in the Shanghai index were Huayi Electric Co Ltd, down 8.15 percent, followed by Eastern Communications Co Ltd that lost 7.83 percent and Zhonglu Co Ltd which fell 5.91 percent. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is up 23.9 percent and the CSI300 has risen 27.3 percent, while China’s H-share index listed in Hong Kong is up 15.1 percent. Shanghai stocks have risen 5.1 percent this month. (Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)