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China: Stocks slump in gloomy start to 2016

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[SHANGHAI] China stocks slumped more than 3 per cent on the first day of trading in 2016 after weak factory activity surveys soured hopes that the world's second-largest economy will enter the new year on better footing.

Investors also dumped holdings ahead of the imminent expiration of a share sales ban on listed companies' major shareholders, which had been imposed during the market crash last summer.

The blue-chip CSI300 index was down 3.3 per cent to 3,606.93 points by 0248 GMT, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 3.2 per cent to 3,424.92 points. Both had tumbled more than 4 per cent at one point.

A 5 per cent rise or fall in the CSI300 would trigger China's circuit breaker mechanism, which took effect on Monday.

A private survey showed China's factory activity contracted for the 10th straight month in December, and at a sharper pace than in November. An official survey on Friday, which focuses on larger, state-owned firms, showed a fifth month of contraction, though a pick-up in the services sector could cushion the impact on the broader economy.

"While some softness in the manufacturing sector was to be expected, having two major indicators pointing towards the same bearish direction is clearly impacting the market," wrote Gerry Alfonso, director at Shenwen Hongyuan Securities Co.

Investors also fear a glut of equity supply could swamp Chinese markets this year, with a six-month share sales ban imposed on listed companies' major shareholders due to expire on Jan 8.

A new set of rules for initial public offerings also to take effect on Jan 1, making it easier for companies to list. "Investors are worried about a flood of share supplies coming to the market," said Shen Zhengyang, analyst at Northeast Securities.

Analysts also attributed Monday's sell-off to weakness in the yuan, which the central bank allowed to slip to fresh 4-1/2-year lows, adding to worries about capital flight.

Shanghai stocks ended 2015 up nearly 10 per cent, beating Wall Street and most other major markets, and shaking off a savage summer rout that wiped out a third of the market's value at one point.

Hong Kong stocks were also down sharply on Monday.

The Hang Seng index dropped 2.1 per cent to 21,454.79 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 2.4 per cent, to 9,428.80.

REUTERS