SHANGHAI: China stocks fell on growth concerns on Monday after factory and retail activity slowed in July even as the central bank unexpectedly cut key rates to support the COVID-19 hit economy.
The CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index both slipped 0.1% at the end of the morning session. Some growth-oriented stocks, however, gained from lower rates.
The new energy sub-index, surged more than 3%.
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) on Monday lowered the rate on one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans to 2.75% from 2.85% and the seven-day reverse repos rate to 2% from 2.1%.
"The 10bps MLF rate cut today was a totally unexpected move," said Kaiwen Wang, China strategist at Clocktower Group.
"The move reflects that policymakers were shocked by the July credit data as well as a comprehensive deceleration in economic activities.
China's activity indicators from industrial output to retail sales missed forecasts, adding to slowdown concerns as new bank lending tumbled more than expected and broad credit growth slowed.
"Economic activities weakened in July. Domestic demand softened due to COVID outbreaks in many cities and the worsening sentiment in the property market," said Zhiwei Zhang, Chief Economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.,
Several Chinese cities, including manufacturing hubs and popular tourist spots, imposed lockdown measures after fresh outbreaks of the more transmissible Omicron variant were found, casting doubts on a strong economic rebound.
The unexpected rate cuts soothed some worries in the stock market about tight liquidity, with the blue-chip CSI300 jumping as much as 0.7% in early morning trade before gains were erased.
"The rate cut is likely to assuage the market concern that Beijing may start to tighten liquidity on the margin. As such, the growth-oriented stock rebound may be prolonged," Clocktower's Wang said.
Shares in new energy companies soared, with photovoltaic firms jumping 4.1%, while new energy vehicles added 2.3%.
However, financials and consumer staples both retreated 0.9%, while tourism-related firms dropped 1.4%.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 0.3%, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 0.2%.
Tech giants listed in Hong Kong slipped 0.3%, after five U.S.-listed Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) whose audits are under scrutiny by the U.S. securities regulator said on Friday they would voluntarily delist from the New York Stock Exchange.
Beijing and Washington are in talks to resolve a long-running audit dispute which could result in Chinese companies being banned from U.S. exchanges if China does not comply with Washington's demand for complete access to the books of U.S.-listed Chinese companies.
Some analysts said the delistings of SOEs were not totally unexpected, and they believed the delistings could potentially help pave the way for an audit deal.