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SHANGHAI: China stocks see-sawed in volatile trade on Friday, holding near two-year lows, as draconian COVID-19 curbs marred the outlook for growth at a time of mounting geopolitical tensions, while authorities vowed to support small firms hit by the pandemic.

The CSI300 index edged up 0.1% to 4,000.79 points at the end of the morning session, after slumping 1.1% earlier , while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1%, to 3,077.80 points, both not far from lows plumbed in March.

The indexes have erased almost all gains made in the wake of Vice Premier Liu He’s pledge to support the economy and financial markets on March 16.

“China’s financial market is not immune to the external shocks and the domestic COVID-19 situation is also putting more downward pressure on growth,” governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) Yi Gang said in a video speech to the annual Boao Forum for Asia.

China will provide policy support for the real economy, and the monetary policy will focus on supporting small firms and sectors hit by COVID outbreaks, Yi added.

The country’s financial hub of Shanghai locked virtually all of its 25 million people into their homes at the start of April after COVID cases began to surge. Residents have since faced income losses, difficulty getting food, family separations and poor conditions in quarantine.

China stocks slump to 5-week closing low on economic slowdown fears

China’s top securities regulator said on Thursday that the economy remained healthy despite numerous challenges, asking institutional investors to invest more in equities to help limit short-term market fluctuations while contributing to economic restructuring.

On the same day, China launched its first private pension scheme that will potentially channel more long-term money into the stock market.

Real estate developers surged 2.8%, and banks added 1.8%, while shares in semiconductors and tourism were down 2.7% and 1.7%, respectively.

Tech giants listed in Hong Kong dropped 1.2%, dragging the Hang Seng benchmark down 0.7%, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 0.6%.

The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission on Thursday added 17 firms, including Li Auto, Ke Holdings and Zhihu Inc , to the latest batch of stocks potentially facing delisting from the United States.

China’s securities watchdog is holding regular talks with U.S. regulators over audit cooperation and expects a deal soon, a Chinese regulatory official said on Thursday.

Li Auto dropped roughly 3% in Hong Kong, while Zhihu slumps more than 20% in its Hong Kong debut.

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