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    New digest

    A-share market starts new year with a bang

    China's A-share market began 2015 with its best start in 22 years on Jan 5, led by energy and property shares as investors remained confident that the leadership will do more to fuel economic growth.

    The Shanghai Composite Index rose by 3.6 percent to close at 3,350.52, its highest level since Aug 6, 2009. Turnover soared to 549.8 billion yuan ($88.7 billion; 74.5 billion euros), up from 432.3 billion yuan on the last trading day of 2014.

    In addition to expectations of more interest rate cuts, which would inject more liquidity into the equity market, a number of fresh positive signs lifted investor sentiment.

    PetroChina Co surged by 10 percent to lead a gauge of energy shares to the biggest advance since 2008.

    China Vanke Co soared by 7.3 percent and Poly Real Estate Group Co by 10 percent after the government loosened mortgage requirements for first-time homebuyers.

    Daqin Railway, which operates China's biggest coal transportation network, rose by 5.1 percent, while Guangshen Railway Co gained 5.3 percent as China canceled price controls on railway bulk cargo, packages and privately invested cargo.

    Seattle's homes attract Chinese buyers

    Some Seattle-area homes are being built or remodeled to improve their feng shui to attract Chinese buyers.

    Specialized brokers who are fluent in Mandarin and understand feng shui - the Chinese belief system that everyone must be harmonized with their surrounding environment - are seeing an advantage when working with buyers from China.

    "We are witnessing exponential increases of Asian homebuyer interest in the Pacific Northwest, especially from the Chinese mainland," said Dean Jones, president and CEO of Realogics Sotheby's International Realty at a real estate showcase in Shanghai at the Marriott City Center in December.

    The Hurun Report says a majority of millionaires in China want to invest in and plan to eventually live in North America. The Seattle-Bellevue metro area has been a hot destination for Chinese seeking real estate.

    Wealthy Chinese homebuyers have flocked to the United States, spending $22 billion on property, tops among all foreign purchasers from March 2013 to March 2014, according to the National Association of Realtors.

    Privately funded bank issues first loan

    With the press of the "enter" putton on a computer keyboard, Premier Li Keqiang finalized the first loan by WeBank, a new online bank and one of five privately funded banks given approval to open in China.

    During a Jan 4 visit to China's first Internet-based bank, Li said he placed high hopes on the online competition in the banking sector to cut costs and force state-owned financial giants to change outdated business models.

    "Internet-based banking is a significant step in China's financial reform," Li said, stressing that the government will provide a good environment for the development of private and online banks.

    The loan approved by Li during the bank's soft launch was for 35,000 yuan ($5,600; 4,700 euros) to Xu Jun, a truck driver in Shenzhen.

    According to their agreement, Xu will repay the principal and interest, an annual rate of 7.5 percent, in six months.

    Gu Min, chairman of the bank, said the 7.5 percent interest rate is a result of analysis that included the driver's gender, age, education, marital status and social network.

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