SHANGHAI, Oct 9 (Reuters) – China shares ended higher on Friday as mainland markets resumed trade following a week-long break, with investors being encouraged by official data that showed signs of economic recovery and a rebound in tourism during the holiday week. ** Tourism sites were visited by 637 million domestic tourists over the eight-day National Day holiday that started Oct. 1, 79% of last year’s total, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement on Thursday.

** At the close, the Shanghai Composite index was up 1.68% at 3,272.08, while the blue-chip CSI300 index closed 2.04% firmer. ** Consumer firms gained 1.94% and transport shares advanced 2.36% after data showed that Chinese domestic tourism witnessed a robust rebound over the just-ended Golden Week holiday, encouraged by China’s success in stamping out the novel coronavirus, although levels were still well short of last year. ** Adding to signs of a firming recovery in the world’s second-largest economy, an industry survey showed the recovery in China’s service sector activity extended into a fifth straight month in September, with hiring increasing for the second month in a row. ** The healthcare sub-index jumped 3.12% after China announced it has joined a global COVID-19 vaccine initiative, becoming the biggest economy to date to pledge support to help buy and distribute the shots fairly. ** The smaller Shenzhen index ended up 3.05% and the start-up board ChiNext Composite index added 3.813%. ** Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.76%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 0.12%. ** At 0711 GMT, the yuan was quoted at 6.715 per U.S. dollar, 1.24% firmer than the previous close of 6.799. ** The currency was set for its best day since 2005, when Beijing de-pegged its currency from the greenback, as growing expectations that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden could win the November presidential election supported sentiment. ** So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is up 7.3% and the CSI300 has risen 14.3%, while China’s H-share index listed in Hong Kong is down 13.8%.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips