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SHANGHAI: Chinese stocks closed down on Tuesday, despite the authorities vowing to support the economy amid a COVID-19 outbreak, with investors watching whether tough pandemic controls might be relaxed.

The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.8% to 4,134.90, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1% to 3,194.03 points.

The Hang Seng index fell 2.3%, to 21,027.76, while the China Enterprises Index lost 3.0%, to 7,167.67 points.

China will step up financial support for industries, companies and people affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, the central bank (PBOC) said on Monday.

This came after data showed China’s economy slowed in March as consumption, real estate and exports were hit hard, taking the shine off faster-than-expected first-quarter growth numbers.

“But the real growth bottlenecks remain,” Nomura said in a note. “Adjustments to China’s zero-COVID strategy are key to a growth recovery in coming months.” By mid-April, the PBOC had paid 600 billion yuan ($94.31 billion) in profits to the central government - equivalent to a 25-basis points cut in banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR), the central bank said.

This move followed a 25 basis points (bps) cut in the reserve requirement for all banks, announced by the central bank on Friday, releasing about 530 billion yuan ($83.25 billion) in long-term liquidity, while analysts said room for further interest rate cuts may be limited.

Healthcare firms and semiconductor stocks slipped 2.2% and 2.7%, respectively, while energy stocks gained 2.6% and infrastructure companies added 1.2%.

China’s state planner called on Tuesday for the implementation of policies to support the country’s catering and retail sectors, as well as spending on new energy vehicles.

Consumer staples edged down 0.2%, while new energy vehicle stocks ended lower 0.5%.

Hong Kong-listed tech giants closed down 3.8%, leading declines on the Hang Seng index, as trading resumed after a holiday.

Video and livestreaming platform Bilibili Inc slumped more than 10%, after China banned livestreaming of unauthorised video games on Friday.

Food delivery giant Meituan plunged nearly 6%, after Shanghai’s market regulator said on Monday it had summoned 12 e-commerce platforms including Meituan and eleme.me over topics including price gouging during the pandemic.

China Merchants Bank fell 11.5% in Hong Kong and 3% in Shanghai, after the bank said on Monday its board of directors had agreed on the removal of Tian Huiyu as its president and director.

The bank’s operations and performance will not be greatly changed, given its good management structure and high standard of corporate governance, Guotai Junan Securities said.

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