Hong Kong stocks end higher on stimulus hopes

SHANGHAI, March 2 (Reuters) - Hong Kong stocks rose on Monday, tracking gains in other Asian markets, as investors bet on more measures to prop up the economy threatened by the coronavirus outbreak.

** The Hang Seng index rose 0.6% to 26,291.68, while the China Enterprises Index gained 1.8% to 10,485.17 points.

** The HSCE, an index tracking mainland firms, outperformed as downbeat data reinforced expectations of further stimulus to support China's economy. ** Factory activity in China contracted at the fastest pace ever in February, even worse than during the global financial crisis, highlighting the colossal damage from the virus outbreak on the world's second-largest economy. ** China's official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a record low of 35.7 in February from 50.0 in January, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, well below the 50-point mark that separates monthly growth from contraction. ** On Monday, a private survey showed China's factories were dealt a devastating blow in February as the coronavirus epidemic triggered the sharpest contraction in activity on record, with the health crisis paralysing large parts of the economy. ** Adding to sentiment was fewer new virus cases in the country. ** China's central Hubei province, the epicentre of the country's coronavirus outbreak, reported less than 200 cases of new infections for the first time since January. ** Excluding the new infections in Hubei, there were only six new cases in mainland China, the lowest since last month. ** The Hong Kong Dollar firmed 0.2% to its strongest level in over a week. The rise was driven by a weaker U.S. dollar and falling interest rates in the city, according to Carie Li, economist at OCBC Wing Hang. (Reporting by the Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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