BEIJING, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese shares extended gains on Thursday, marking the third consecutive day of gains on the back of generally positive market sentiment, as data showed improved manufacturing activity in March.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index increased 0.3 percent, or 6.87 points, to end at 2,324.24.
The Shenzhen Component Index climbed 0.09 percent, or 8.32 points, to finish at 9,326.29.
Data from British banking giant HSBC issued Thursday showed that China's preliminary purchasing managers' index stood at 51.7 in March, up from 50.4 in February, the lowest reading since October.
The index, a barometer of the health of China's economy, was boosted by stronger new orders and production growth. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while readings below 50 point to contraction.
Over 70 percent of shares on the two bourses posted gains on Thursday. Eighteen shares hit the daily increase cap of 10 percent.
Combined turnover on the bourses declined to 198.8 billion yuan (31.69 billion U.S. dollars) from 202.8 billion yuan the previous trading day.
Shares of environmental protection companies led the rise during Thursday's trading, fueled by a three-year plan issued by the Beijing Municipal government to speed up construction of facilities for sewage treatment and reclaimed water utilization.
Tianjin Capital Environmental Protection Group Co. rose by the 10-percent daily trading limit to close at 10.3 yuan per share. Shanghai Safbon Water Service Co. went up 4.28 percent to 26.53 yuan.
Bucking the trend, liquor and real estate heavyweights dropped. Distilled spirit maker Kweichow Moutai slid 1.84 percent to finish at 166.78 yuan. China Vanke, the country's largest property developer by market size, lost 1.87 percent to 11.01 yuan.
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