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Hong Kong, Shanghai shares surge on China hopes


Shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai rallied on Thursday on hopes the Chinese government will launch a stimulus package to shore up the domestic economy.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index jumped 2.55 percent, or 532.93 points, to 21,437.49 on turnover of HK$73.07 billion (US$9.43 billion).

Traders were also given a lift by comments from US Federal Reserve boss Ben Bernanke that its stimulus drive would be kept in place "for the foreseeable future".

In China Premier Li Keqiang emphasised the importance of stabilising growth and preventing it slipping below the "lower limit", state media reported, indicating the government might take steps to support the domestic economy.

"The tone of Premier Li's speech suggests to us that the policy stance in (the second half) may soften," Nomura economist Zhiwei Zhang wrote in a research report.

The mainland economy expanded 7.7 percent in the first quarter this year, lower than the 7.9 percent growth registered in the fourth quarter last year, sparking worries a rebound was losing momentum.

And fresh data on inflation and trade this week suggest difficulties continue to dog the economy.

China large-cap banks ended sharply higher. Bank of China rose 3.2 percent to HK$3.22 and Agricultural Bank of China jumped 3.6 percent to HK$3.19.

Shanghai surged 3.23 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 64.86 points to 2,072.99 on turnover of 131.0 billion yuan ($20.9 billion).

"The market is expecting the government to introduce mild stimulus policies, while it's also about time for the market to gain an upward trend after heavy losses last month," Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing told AFP.

Financial stocks led the gains. Industrial Bank surged by its 10 percent daily limit to 10.40 yuan and New China Life Insurance gained 7.01 percent to 24.43 yuan.

Cement producers were higher on hopes China's urbanisation push will drive demand. Huaxin Cement advanced 7.53 percent to 11.42 yuan while Anhui Conch Cement jumped 7.39 percent to 14.38 yuan.

Rare earth producers extended gains, with Baotou Steel Rare-Earth approaching its 10 percent daily limit to 25.56 yuan while Xiamen Tungsten rose 4.63 percent to 31.42 yuan.

Beijing has set its growth target for 2013 at 7.5 percent. The government will announce gross domestic product figures for the second quarter on Monday.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --