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SHANGHAI: China stocks fell on Thursday, as concerns over record high domestic daily COVID-19 cases overshadowed optimism from fresh economic stimulus, while Hong Kong shares tracked Asian markets higher amid hopes that the pace of US rate hikes will slow.

** The CSI300 index fell 0.3% by the lunch break, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1%. Hong Kong benchmark Hang Seng rose 0.5%.

** Rising coronavirus infections in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou dim growth prospects, even as Beijing rolled out a series of policies to support the troubled property sector, and flagged plans to cut banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) to aid the economy.

China markets end higher on fresh property support

** China on Wednesday reported 31,444 new local COVID cases for Nov. 23, its highest daily number since the start of the pandemic nearly three years ago. Chinese cities imposed more curbs to rein in the pandemic.

** Nomura expects China’s central bank to cut RRR by 25 basis points in the next couple of weeks, or even days, after the State Council said late on Wednesday it will use monetary tools to support the economy.

** But “the RRR is likely to only have a limited positive impact, as we believe the real hurdle for the economy lies in? local officials’ more zealous implementation of COVID restrictions rather than insufficient loanable funds,” Nomura China economist Ting Lu wrote in a note.

** “In our view, ending zero COVID as soon as possible is the key to raising credit demand and bolstering growth.”

** Nomura revised down China’s 2022 GDP growth forecast to 2.8%, from 2.9%.

** China’s consumer and IT stocks led the decline, while energy healthcare shares rose.

** Hong Kong-listed stocks of Chinese developers jumped more than 4%, after the country’s biggest banks agreed to provide billions of dollars in credit lines to cash-strapped developers.

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