China stocks tumble as bleak data, Fed's rescue efforts fail to calm virus fears


SHANGHAI, March 16 (Reuters) - China stocks ended sharply lower on Monday after dismal data and a second emergency rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve highlighted the coronavirus impact on the global economy.

** The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 4.3%, to 3,727.84, while the Shanghai Composite Index shed 3.4% to 2,789.25.

** Around the region, MSCI's Asia ex-Japan stock index plunged 5.2%, while Japan's Nikkei index closed down 2.46%.

** The sell-off comes after the U.S. Federal Reserve and its global counterparts moved aggressively with sweeping emergency rate cuts and offers of cheap dollars in a bid to combat the pandemic.

** Foreign investors continued to sell stocks as risk appetite was hurt, disposing nearly 9 billion yuan worth of A-shares via the Stock Connect linking mainland and Hong Kong for the day.

** Due to a relative big correction in overseas markets in the past three weeks, foreign investors have an incentive to sell A-shares for the short-term, Orient Securities noted in report.

** China's factory production plunged at the sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of the year as the fast-spreading coronavirus and strict containment measures severely disrupted the world's second-largest economy.

** To help its virus-hit economy, the central bank cut the cash that banks must hold as reserves on Friday for the second time this year, releasing 550 billion yuan ($78.54 billion).

** China will encourage banks to offer more trade finance and also issue more consumer credit, said an official with the banking regulator on Sunday.

** Meanwhile, the central bank left borrowing cost on its medium-term loans unchanged on Monday.

** At 0731 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 7.0073 per U.S. dollar, 0.02% firmer than the previous close of 7.0088.

** As of 0732 GMT, China's A-shares were trading at a premium of 33.42% over the Hong Kong-listed H-shares. ($1 = 7.0025 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Luoyan Liu and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)