China's blue-chip index ends at 13-year high on rare earths boost

* SSEC +2%, CSI300 2.2%

* China auto sales surge 30% in January

* China reports zero locally transmitted infections for a second day

BEIJING, Feb 9 (Reuters) - China’s blue-chip index closed on Tuesday at the highest level in 13 years, with rare earth stocks shining, as investors were reassured by a quicker economic recovery following a containment of a resurgence of locally transmitted COVID-19 infections.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index ended up 2.19% at 5686.25, the highest closing level since January 15, 2008, with its consumer staples sector adding 2.91% and the healthcare sub-index climbing 2.11%.

** The Shanghai Composite index was up 2.01% at 3,603.49, the biggest daily gain in nearly a month. ** Leading the gains, the rare earth sector sub-index surged 5% while the natural resource sub-index gained 4.5%. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended up 2.44% and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index was higher by 1.714%.

** China reported 14 new COVID-19 cases on the mainland on Feb. 8, official data showed on Tuesday, unchanged from a day earlier and the second day of no locally transmitted infections.

** Auto sales in the country surged in January with a 30% jump from the same month a year earlier, the tenth month of gains, as China continued to lead the global automobile industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. ** Shares in China’s digital currency-related stocks rose, underpinned by gains for cryptocurrencies.

** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.42%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed up 0.4%. ** At 0711 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.4497 per U.S. dollar, 0.01% weaker than the previous close of 6.4488. (Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; editing by Uttaresh.V)