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Drug makers push index higher at midday

SHANGHAI'S key stock index ended higher at the morning close, led by pharmaceutical companies after the government said it will reform the health care system.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.13 percent, or 2.67 points, to 1987.68 points at 11:30am.

The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks the smaller domestic market, was up 0.24 percent, or 1.46 points, to 606.03 points.

Drug makers advanced after the government said it will spend 850 billion yuan (US$124 billion) over three years to help expand medical care coverage.

Yunnan Baiyao Group Co, a manufacturer of traditional Chinese medicines, advanced 1.49 percent to 32.7 yuan. North China Pharmaceutical Co surged 4.17 percent to 7.75 yuan.

The economy expanded 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the slowest pace in seven years.

National Bureau of Statistics of China announced this morning gross domestic product growth cooled to 9 percent last year, the slowest pace in seven years. Shares fell immediately after the economic figures were disclosed, but market sentiment recovered as it was in line with expectation.

Pingdingshan Tianan Coal Mining Co led a rally among producers of the solid fuel after saying profit for 2008 more than doubled from the year earlier. Pingdingshan Tianan gained 2.89 percent to 17.47 yuan. China Shenhua Energy Co, the nation's biggest coal producer, climbed 1.6 percent to 19.7 yuan. Yanzhou Coal Mining Co, China's fourth-biggest producer, gained 2.06 percent to 9.89 yuan.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp boosted crude oil production at Shengli field, the nation's second biggest, to a record in 2008 after upgrading the technology used to extract the fuel, parent China Petrochemical Corp said in a newsletter. The shares gained 1.29 percent to 7.87 yuan.

Elsewhere, Shanghai Bashi Industrial Group Co, a bus company, climbed to a four-month high on speculation regulatory approval of an asset restructuring plan will bolster its prospects. Shanghai Bashi jumped the 10 percent daily cap to finish the session at 4.49 yuan.

China Railway Construction Corp lost 0.31 percent to 9.51 yuan after saying a subsidiary won an US$805 million contract to build a railroad in Libya.


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