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Airlines lead market's downward spiral at midday

SHANGHAI'S key stock index fell, led by airlines, after China Southern Airlines Co reported lower profits last year.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dipped 0.52 percent, or 13.12 points, to close at 2,514.07 points.

The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks the smaller domestic market, was down 0.32 percent to close at 847.88 points.

China Southern Airlines Co, the nation's biggest carrier by fleet size, lost 2.23 percent to 6.14 yuan. The carrier slumped to its first annual loss in three years after natural disasters and the economic slowdown sapped air travel. The loss was 4.8 billion yuan (US$702 million), it said.

Lenders lost despite the China Banking Regulatory Commission reporting yesterday that China's banks had reduced their average bad-loan ratio to 2.04 percent by the end of March. The banks had a total of 549.5 billion yuan in non-performing loans as of March 31, down 10.7 billion yuan from the beginning of the year.

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd, the nation's biggest listed lender, eased 0.97 percent to 4.1 yuan. China Construction Bank Corp, the No. 2, slid 1.54 percent to 4.49 yuan.

Shipbuilders contributed to the losses after new orders at Chinese shipyards fell 94 percent in the first three months to 790,000 deadweight tons, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said yesterday in a statement on its Website.

China State Shipbuilding Co, the country's biggest shipbuilder, shed 3.2 percent to 66.29 yuan. Guangzhou Shipyard International Co, the smaller unit of China's biggest shipbuilder, declined 2.25 percent to 21.71 yuan.

Ping An Insurance (Group) Co, China's second-biggest insurer said its life insurance unit booked 39.67 billion yuan of premium income in the first quarter this year. The stock fell 1.31 percent to 42.1 yuan.

Angang Steel Co, China's second-largest steelmaker by market value, added 0.22 percent to 9.19 yuan. The steelmaker said 2008 profit dropped 60 percent from a year earlier on lower prices and the write-down of inventories.

Huaneng Power International Inc fell 1.66 percent to 7.72 yuan after saying its first-quarter electricity generation fell 9.3 percent.

Bucking the downward trend, China Shenhua Energy Co, the nation's largest coal producer, gained 0.24 percent to 25.32 yuan. The company posted a 16 percent increase in its output of the fuel in the first quarter to 51.8 million metric tons compared with a year earlier.


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