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Chinese shares plummeted to extend the steepest four-day rout since 1996 on concern the government is abandoning market support measures.

The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 7.6 percent to 2,964.97 at the close, sinking below the 3,000 level for the first time in eight months. The gauge has dropped 22 percent in four days since Aug. 19. More than 700 stocks fell by the 10 percent daily limit in Shanghai on Tuesday, including PetroChina Co., the nation’s biggest company by value.

Speculation around the government’s intentions has escalated since Aug. 14, after China’s securities regulator signaled authorities will pare back the campaign to prop up share prices as volatility falls. Officials should wind down the stock market support program even if prices continue to decline, according to a front-page commentary in the state-run Economic Information Daily on Tuesday.

“It’s panic selling and an issue of confidence,” said Wei Wei, an analyst at Huaxi Securities Co. in Shanghai. “The government won’t step in to rescue the market again as it’s a global sell-off and it’s spreading everywhere now. It’s not going to work this time.”

Unprecedented government intervention has failed to stop a $4.5 trillion rout since the market peaked in June amid growing concern the slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy is deepening. Officials have armed a state agency with more than $400 billion to buy stocks, banned selling by major shareholders and told state-owned companies to buy equities.

The central bank added the most funds to the financial system in open-market operations since January 2014 on Tuesday as currency-market intervention to prop up the yuan strained the supply of cash.

The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 7.1 percent to 3,042.93.

When the Shanghai Composite tumbled 8.5 percent on July 27, the regulator issued statements shortly after the market closed saying it would probe the sell-off and underlining the government’s commitment to supporting equities. The CSRC hasn’t made any statements since Monday’s tumble.

“The regulator probably thinks the market slump this time hasn’t impacted the broader financial system, or they think the situation still controllable,” said Xue Hexiang, senior strategist of Huatai Securities Co.

On Aug. 14, the regulator said China Securities Finance Corp., the state agency tasked with supporting share prices, would no longer add to holdings unless there’s unusual volatility and systemic risk, although it would remain in the stock market for years to come.

Officials should wind down the stock market support program even if prices continue to decline, according to a front-page commentary in the state-run Economic Information Daily on Tuesday.

About 17 percent of listed shares traded on mainland bourses were halted from trading Tuesday, little changed from Monday.

The intervention sparked concern among Chinese traders that the government was trying to shore up the market at levels unjustified by weaker economic outlook. Stocks on mainland bourses traded at a median 61 times reported earnings on Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most among the 10 largest markets and more than three times the 19 multiple for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

China’s economic growth slowed to 6.6 percent in July, according to Bloomberg’s monthly GDP tracker. The nation’s first major economic indicator for August signaled a further deterioration as a private manufacturing index fell to the lowest level in six years.

The central bank added the most funds to the financial system in open-market operations since February on Tuesday as currency-market intervention to prop up the yuan strained the supply of cash.

The People’s Bank of China auctioned 150 billion yuan ($23.4 billion) of seven-day reverse-repurchase agreements, according to traders at primary dealers required to bid at the auctions. That compares with 120 billion yuan maturing Tuesday, which leaves a net injection of 30 billion yuan.

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