China stocks plunge, triggering another market halt

A currency trader walks by the screen showing the foreign exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the South Korean won at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Asian stocks posted broad gains Thursday after the Federal Reserve ended protracted uncertainty in markets by raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade and signaling that further increases will be gradual. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

HONG KONG — Chinese stock trading was suspended Thursday after “circuit breakers” kicked in following a steep plunge, in the latest spasm of investor panic on the country’s volatile markets.

The official Xinhua news agency said trading on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges was frozen for the day after shares tumbled more than 7 percent.

Trading was halted only 13 minutes into the morning session. Stocks plunged further after trading resumed 15 minutes later, triggering the daylong trading freeze.

The emergency measures, which took effect Jan. 1, also kicked in on Monday to halt stock trading.

Regulators announced in December that they would introduce the circuit breakers, which are aimed at preventing huge price swings.

Beijing has been trying to restore investor confidence after markets plunged in June following huge gains in the preceding year. The market meltdown has prompted a panicked, multibillion-dollar government intervention.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 7.3 percent to 3,115.89 before trading was halted. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index slumped 8.3 percent to 1,955.88.

Other Asian markets were sharply lower as investor jitters rippled across the region. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 1.8 percent to 17,867.04 and South Korea’s Kospi lost 1 percent to 1,907.10.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 2.6 percent to 20,439.20 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 retreated 2 percent to 5,023.40. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Southeast Asia also fell.

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