May You Live In Interesting TimesPosted: July 8, 2015
The latest drastic step by Beijing is a six-month ban on stock sales by controlling shareholders and executives who own more than 5% of a company’s shares. Any violation of the rule, announced Wednesday night, would be ‘treated seriously’
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 5.9% on Wednesday and is down nearly one-third from its peak on June 12. Since then, $3.5 trillion in value has been erased from companies in the benchmark index—or nearly five times the size of Apple Inc.
China’s bond market and currency also began to get hit Wednesday as worries deepened that a contagion from stock-market losses could further trammel the country’s slowing economy. It felt even more ominous because Chinese officials had rushed out another raft of emergency measures earlier Wednesday to reassure the market.
The moves only heightened what is turning into an epidemic of anxiety among Chinese investors and a crisis of confidence in their leaders. Stocks were volatile early Thursday.
“The more the government intervenes, the more scared I am,” said Li Jun, who runs a fishing and restaurant business in the eastern city of Nanjing. He has spent about 3 million yuan, roughly $500,000, on stocks, using borrowed money for about one-third of the total.
Mr. Li has sold some of his investments every time the market “popped up a little” following a rescue announcement by the Chinese government. “I have no faith” in its ability to halt the losses, he says. Wednesday’s drop left the Shanghai index down 32% from its peak and at its lowest level since March.
The latest drastic step by Beijing is a six-month ban on stock sales by controlling shareholders and executives who own more than 5% of a company’s shares. Any violation of the rule, announced Wednesday night, would be “treated seriously,” China’s securities regulator said.
Early Thursday, China’s central bank said it has provided “ample liquidity” to a company owned by the country’s top securities regulator. The company is lending the funds to securities firms, which then will use the money to buy stocks.
The Chinese government has been praised for driving decades of economic growth and keeping the economy strong during the global financial crisis. In recent years, Chinese authorities have struggled with rising debt levels and the need to reform the economy away from government-driven infrastructure programs and toward consumer spending.
As it fought slower growth and a weakening real-estate market, the government turned its attention to the country’s languishing stock markets.
But Beijing’s inability to stop the recent decline has rattled investors who have long been used to seeing the government use its power to control markets.
“Beijing’s latest bid to calm the market has had the opposite effect,” said Bernard Aw, market analyst at IG Group. “The panic is spreading, and authorities appear to be grasping at straws to hold back the tide.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew played down the possible world-wide impact of China’s stock-market mess, though he expressed worry that it could restrain the country’s longer-term growth if Beijing slows its promised economic overhauls.
“The concern that I think is a real one is, what does it mean about long-term growth in China?” Mr. Lew said Wednesday.
One worry is that bruising stock-market losses could force millions of Chinese investors to rein in personal consumption, which might hurt companies that sell goods in China.
For example, China is the biggest market for Indian auto maker Tata Motors Ltd. ’s Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. U.S.-listed shares of Tata fell 6.8% on Wednesday.
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