China stocks end higher on market reform cheer, easing virus worries

SHANGHAI, Feb 8 (Reuters) - China stocks closed higher on Monday as the country reported zero new local cases of the novel coronavirus and investors cheered Beijing’s latest reform measures for the stock market.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index rose 1.5% to 5,564.56, while the Shanghai Composite Index added 1% to 3,532.45 points.

** Leading the gains, the CSI300 materials index jumped 5.3% and the CSI300 healthcare index added 2.4%.

** China reported no new locally transmitted mainland COVID-19 cases for the first time in nearly two months, official data showed, adding to signs that it has managed to stamp out the latest wave of the disease.

** Lifting investors’ mood, China’s securities regulator said it has given the greenlight to merging the Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s main board with the SME board.

** “It’s an inevitable choice of the deepening capital market reforms, and would help the capital market better serve the development of small and medium firms via direct financing,” China Securities said in a note.

** China’s new bank loans are expected to surge to a record high in January on a seasonal boost, a Reuters poll showed, while credit growth may be constrained by some marginal tightening of monetary policy as the central bank focuses on preventing risks.

** Market participants looked past the country’s market regulator releasing new anti-monopoly guidelines on Sunday that targeted internet platforms. (Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Devika Syamnath)