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Stocks close higher, end week up 2.6%

SHANGHAI'S key stock index ended higher today, sending the index to a weekly gain of 2.6 percent, on speculation the government will strengthen efforts to prop up the country's ailing industries and counter the economic slowdown.

The Shanghai Composite Index added 1.78 percent, or 34.23 points, to close at 1,954.44 points at 3pm today.

Gainers outnumbered losers 524 to 292 and 60 remained unchanged. Turnover swelled for a fourth consecutive day to 100 billion yuan (US$14.71 billion), up from yesterday's 83.2 billion yuan.

The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks the smaller domestic market, was up 0.81 percent, or 4.82 points, to 600.69 points.

Premier Wen Jiabao pledged earlier to increase a 4-trillion-yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package, which was first unveiled in November.

China's National Development & Reform Commission and the Ministry of Industry & Information Technology reportedly will review a machinery industry stimulus package designed to speed up mergers and acquisitions and encourage technology innovation.

Guangxi Liugong Machinery Co, a maker of construction equipment, advanced 1.57 percent to 11.66 yuan. Sany Heavy Industry Co, the country's biggest maker of machinery for handling concrete, rose 1.32 percent to 18.47 yuan. Weichai Power Co, a maker of high-speed heavy-duty diesel engines, jumped 2.94 percent to 22.75 yuan.

The country's lender added after China Investment Corp, the nation's US$200 billion sovereign wealth fund, has been increasing its holdings in the nation's three largest banks.

China Construction Bank Corp surged 4.05 percent to 3.85 yuan. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd climbed 2.01 percent to 3.56 yuan while Bank of China Ltd edged up 1.69 percent to close at 3 yuan.

Among the gainers, brokerages rose after Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said the securities watchdog will allow margin trading and short-sales on a trial basis.

Haitong Securities jumped 7.17 percent to 10.91 yuan. Citic Securities, the country's biggest brokerage by market value, gained 4.05 percent to 20.57 yuan.


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