SHANGHAI, March 9 - China's benchmark ShanghaiComposite index fell to the brink of correctionterritory on Tuesday, as investors worried that regulators couldmove to rein in frothiness in the market even as inflation fearsgrow. As of Tuesday, the Shanghai Composite Index hadfallen 9.98% from a Feb. 18 high, just shy of the 10% falltypically defined as a correction. Other major indexes, including the blue-chip CSI300 indexare already firmly in correction territory. The CSI300closed at 4,970.99 points on Tuesday, down 16.1% from anall-time high hit on Feb 18. Shenzhen's ChiNext hasfallen 24% over the same period. Traders and analysts said investors worry that liquiditycould tighten even as China's economic recovery shows signs ofslowing. China on Friday set a modest annual economic growth targetof above 6%, significantly below the consensus of analysts. Growth-oriented stocks have suffered globally in recentweeks from rising concerns over inflation. In China, investor fears that authorities are keen to reducegenerous stimulus policies have added to the pressure. Consumer, healthcare, new energy and Hong Kong-listed techfirms, once fervently chased by investors, have been hardesthit. Some have slumped into bear market territory - a drop of20% or more from recent highs - from lofty valuations. The CSI300 consumer staples index lost 2.3% onTuesday, down nearly 30% from a peak hit on Feb. 18, while theCSI300 healthcare index shed 3% and is down 26% fromits peak. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng tech index, whichincludes tech giants Tencent, Alibaba andJD.com, fell 30% from a Feb. 18 record high. A weaker yuan also added pressure to A-shares, as it coulddampen the appeal of Chinese equities to foreign investors. China's yuan slid to a near 2-1/2-month low against thedollar on Tuesday before recovering. Foreign inflows into the A-share market via the StockConnect have slowed in recent months and turned negative inMarch. Domestically, Chinese investors' margin lending to buyshares also decreased from a more than five-year high, asliquidity conditions tightened. However, some investors are ready to hunt for bargains, asChina and Hong Kong stocks remain less expensive than globalpeers following recent declines. "Investors tend to buy the dip after such sudden slumps,"said Liu Hongming, a fund manager at Beijing-based DingxinHuijin Asset Management Company. He said the rally for once high-flying sectors had probablyended for now, and that he prefers small and mid cap firms withsolid earnings growth and low valuations. REUTERS
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