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SHANGHAI: China stocks ended little changed on Thursday, following four sessions of declines, after a private-sector survey showed the country’s factory activity expanded modestly in January, while efforts to stabilise the market by the “national team” also helped.

The blue-chip index closed up 0.1% on the first day of February after posting a record six monthly declines in a row, while the Shanghai Composite ended 0.6% lower.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.5% and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index finished up 0.6%.

The Caixin/S&P Global manufacturing PMI stayed at 50.8 in January, unchanged from December and surpassing analysts’ forecasts of 50.6, helping lift business confidence to a nine-month high.

The positive reading, however, contrasted with a much larger official survey on Wednesday showing manufacturing activity contracted again last month, pointing to a still-underperforming economy in need of more policy support.

A rescue operation is underway in China’s equity markets with large and unusual flows into blue-chip funds suggesting involvement by state-backed investors.

More than $17 billion flowed to four Chinese-domiciled exchange-traded funds tracking the CSI 300 index until Jan. 26 this year, S&P Global Market Intelligence found.

Shares in artificial intelligence jumped 2.1%, while property developers lost 1.8%.

In Hong Kong, tech giants surged 2% and healthcare shares advanced 2.1%.

Foreign investors bought a net 2.7 billion yuan ($375.83 million) of Chinese shares via the Stock Connect on the day, logging a third straight session of net inflows.

The latest measures by authorities to support the ailing property sector are also improving sentiment.

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