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China: Stocks end lower on investment rule change for insurers

An index of Asian shares climbed to 2-1/2-week highs on Thursday, heartened by gains on Wall Street and a recovery in crude oil prices in thin markets ahead of the Christmas holiday.

[SHANGHAI] China's stock market posted its biggest one-day fall in two weeks on Thursday, as investor interest in blue chips suddenly cooled after regulators tightened rules for insurers investing in listed firms.

The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 1.0 per cent, to 3,829.40, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6 per cent, to 3,612.49 points. Both indexes had the worst day since Dec 8.

Blue chips have been buoyant recently amid signs that cash-rich insurers were on a year-end shopping spree as they aggressively built positions in modestly-valued big caps - in some cases becoming listed firms' major shareholders.

But the game of betting on insurers' next acquisition targets ground to a halt after regulators issued rules late on Wednesday demanding more detailed disclosures when their holdings in a listed company amount to 5 per cent.

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Such measures, which make insurers' stock investments more cumbersome, hit the shares of companies investors had bet would attract more investment from them.

Retailer Dashang Co Ltd tumbled 7.6 per cent, developer Gemdale Corp slumped 9 per cent and Chinese traditional medicine maker Beijing Tongrentang tanked 6.9 per cent.

Most sectors fell, with property shares leading the decline.