* SSEC +1.5 pct, CSI300 +1.9 pct, HSI +1 pct
* Chinese premier vows to keep growth in reasonable range
* Substantive progress in Sino-U.S. trade talks - Xinhua
HONG KONG, March 15 (Reuters) - Shares in China climbed on Friday after the government reiterated its commitment to boosting growth and as Beijing and Washington appeared to have made more progress in their trade talks. ** At the midday break, the Shanghai Composite index was up 1.5 percent at 3,036.76, while the blue-chip CSI300 index rose 1.9 percent. ** CSI300’s financial sector sub-index was higher by 1.9 percent, the consumer staples sector gained 1.9 percent, healthcare shares climbed 2 percent. ** In Hong Kong, both the Hang Seng Index and Chinese H-shares listed in Hong Kong gained 1 percent. The Hang Seng stood at 29,124.18 points, a level last seen on March 4. ** The smaller Shenzhen index was up 1.9 percent and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was higher by 1.6 percent. ** China will not let economic growth slip out of a reasonable range amid downward pressure on its economy, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday at a press conference marking the end of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress. ** The Chinese premier pledged strong measures to support growth, saying that the government could use tools such as reserve requirements and interest rates. ** Li added that China would cut value-added tax (VAT) for manufacturing and other sectors on April 1 and social security fees from May 1. The measures are coming after China lowered its growth target to 6 to 6.5 percent for 2019, down from around 6.5 percent last year. ** “We expect the economy to continue to face downward pressure, but it has a higher probability of hitting the growth target,” analysts at Huatai Securities wrote in a note on Friday. ** The Congress, China’s parliament, voted on Friday to approve a new foreign investment law, which is designed to ease foreign concerns about China’s investment environment, especially as China and the United States work to try to end a trade war. ** Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by telephone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, making further substantive progress on trade talks, Xinhua news agency said on Friday. ** A summit to seal a trade deal between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will not happen at the end of March because more work is needed in negotiations, Mnuchin said on Thursday. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.7 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei index was up 1.1 percent. ** The largest percentage gainers on the main Shanghai Composite index were Shanghai Greencourt Investment Group Co Ltd , Shanghai Shentong Metro Co Ltd and Shanghai Tongji Science&Technology Industrial Co Ltd , all up by 10.1 percent. ** As of midday, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 22.45 percent over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares. ** The Shanghai stock index is above its 50-day moving average and above its 200-day moving average.
Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu