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China shares end lower as losses in tech stocks offset auto gains

* SSEC -0.46%, CSI300 -0.29

* IT sub-sector index falls 3.4%

* China reports fewest daily new COVID-19 cases in more than a month

BEIJING, Feb 3 (Reuters) - China shares ended lower on Wednesday, as profit-taking in tech stocks with high valuations outweighed gains in automakers on expectations of strong sales growth this year. ** At the close, the Shanghai Composite index fell 0.46% to 3,517.31 and the blue-chip CSI300 index shed 0.29%.

** The CSI300 IT index lost 3.4%, while the STAR50 index tracking Shanghai’s tech-focused STAR Board, fell 1.9%. ** The auto sector sub-index surged 5.4%, the consumer staples sector was up 1.1%, while the healthcare sub-index gained 0.9%. ** Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd reported a growth of 87.2% in its January vehicle sales from a year ago, while the country’s industry association forecast a 4% rise in total annual vehicle sales for 2021 at 26.3 million units.

** Losses were also capped after China reported its fewest number of new COVID-19 cases for a single day in more than a month, the latest indication that the current wave of the disease is subsiding ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, aiding investor sentiment. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended down 0.85% and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was weaker by 0.153%. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 1.35%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 1%. ** At 07:11 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.4581 per U.S. dollar, 0.02% weaker than the previous close of 6.4566. (Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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