Sunday 17 December 2017

China stocks rebound for second day in a row after frantic emergency measures

An investor watches an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage office in Beijing. Photo: Reuters
An investor watches an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage office in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

Chinese stocks rose strongly for a second day this morning, buoyed by a barrage of government support measures, but worries persist about the long-term impact that four weeks of stock market turmoil may have on the world's second-largest economy.

Over the past two weeks Chinese authorities have cut interest rates, suspended initial public offerings, relaxed margin lending and collateral rules and enlisted brokerages to buy stocks, backed by cash from the central bank.

Some analysts predict further moves to come from the central bank, which often makes policy announcements over the weekend, such as another rate cut or relaxation of the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves.

The frantic efforts to stem the market slide finally began to gain traction yesterday, when shares rose around 6pc after the securities regulator banned shareholders with large stakes in listed firms from selling.

The CSI300 index .CSI300 of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose another 6.1pc today, while the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC gained 5.4pc.

At the depths of their slump earlier this week Chinese shares had fallen more than 30 percent from their mid-June peak, and for some global investors China's market turmoil had become a greater concern than the crisis in Greece.

Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note they expected the ripple effect to eventually hit the real economy and corporate earnings.

"We expect this will likely hurt consumption down the road," the note said. "More critical is a potential distortion to credit flows due to the impairment to financial institutions' balance sheets."

While Beijing's efforts appear to have put a floor under the stock market for now, it was still far from functioning normally.

Around 1,300 of China's listed companies - nearly half the market - remained suspended after a scramble by firms earlier in the week to escape the carnage by having trading in their stock halted. About 60 companies resumed trading today.

Many of those that remained trading, meanwhile, were propped up by state-directed buying.

This morning Shanghai Securities News reported that insurers had brought 112.3bn yuan ($18.1bn) of equity since the rout began.

The plunge in China's previously booming stock markets, which had more than doubled in the year to mid-June, has created a major headache for President Xi Jinping and China's top leaders, who are already grappling with slowing growth.

Many investors say China's unprecedented attempts to arrest the slide have undermined its commitment to give markets a "decisive" role in pricing assets.


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