China stocks end lower; bleak data raises stimulus hopes

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SHANGHAI (Sept 16): China stocks started the week on a soft note, though losses were limited on easing Sino-U.S. trade frictions, while bleak economic data on Monday raised hopes that Beijing will dole out more stimulus to underpin the economy.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index ended down 0.4% at 3,957.72, while the Shanghai Composite Index closed flat at 3,030.75.

** The slowdown in the factory and consumer sectors deepened in August, with industrial production growing at the weakest pace in 17-1/2 years, a sign of increasing weakness in an economy lashed by trade headwinds and soft domestic demand.

** Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in an interview published ahead of the data on Monday it would be "very difficult" for the economy to continue growing at 6% or more and that it faced "downward pressure".

** Analysts say they expect the latest data to lead to more cuts in key lending rates from Chinese authorities.

** Investors also parsed through latest news and comments for signs of easing in the Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

** U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he preferred a comprehensive trade deal with China, but did not rule out the possibility of an interim pact, even as he said an "easy" agreement would not be possible.

** Trump's remarks came after China and the United States made conciliatory gestures as the two sides prepare for new rounds of talks, including China's purchases of U.S. soybeans.

** The U.S. Agriculture Department confirmed on Friday that private exporters bought 204,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans destined for China.

** Energy firms on Monday outperformed following a surge in oil prices. The CSI300 energy index ended up 1.9%.

** Around the region, MSCI's Asia ex-Japan stock index was weaker by 0.33%.

** At 0716 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 7.0723 per U.S. dollar, 0.09% firmer than the previous close of 7.0788.

** As of 0717 GMT, China's A-shares were trading at a premium of 28.98% over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares.