SHANGHAI, July 13 (Reuters) - Chinese stocks firmed on Thursday, with the blue-chip index closing at an 18-month high, underpinned by solid trade data and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's signal to adopt a patient approach in the current U.S. rate-tightening phase.
The blue-chip CSI300 index rose 0.8 percent, to 3,686.92 points, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6 percent to 3,218.16 points.
China's better-than-expected trade performance for June lifted market sentiment. Exports rose 11.3 percent last month from a year earlier, while imports expanded 17.2 percent, suggesting the economy is holding up well thanks to firmer global demand.
"Today's upbeat figures point to still strong foreign demand for Chinese goods, as well as fairly resilient domestic demand," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China Economist at Capital Economics.
"Looking ahead, exports should continue to do well given the relatively positive outlook for China's main trading partners."
Risk appetite also improved after Wall Street hit record peaks as investors wagered policy tightening in the United States would be glacial at best.
Chinese investors continued to plow money into blue chips, helping lift sectors such as banking, raw materials and infrastructure.
"Mainland investors are increasingly ditching speculative trading, and putting money in those companies that generate predictable incomes," said Wu Wei, analyst at Zheshang Securities Co.
By contrast, small-caps languished further, with eight such firms slumping the 10 percent trading limit. (Reporting by Luoyan Liu and John Ruwitch; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)