Wednesday, July 8, 2015
A Incomensurável Bolha Chinesa Vai Estourar
Today China’s 90 million retail investors outnumber the 88 million members of its Communist Party. Two thirds of new investors lack a high school diploma. In rural villages, farmers have set up mini stock exchanges, and some say they spend more time trading than working in the fields. The signs of overtrading are hard to exaggerate. The total value of China’s stock market is still less than half that of the U.S. market, but the trading volume on many recent days has exceeded that of the rest of the world’s markets combined. Turnover is 10 times the level seen at the peak of the previous China bubble in 2007, and virtually the entire market inventory is changing hands every month. Such frantic activity has pushed up valuations for companies large and small, with the broad CSI 500 index trading at 50 times last year’s earnings and the Nasdaq-style board Chinext valued at 110 times last year’s earnings. Since the June 12 peak, nearly $3 trillion in value has been erased, as Beijing takes increasingly desperate measures to arrest the price collapse. The authorities have cut interest rates and transaction fees. They have directed mutual funds and state pension funds to buy stocks. Over the weekend they panicked and reversed course by suspending new initial public offerings, suddenly choking off a source of the new corporate funding they had been trying to create. This comes when the real cost of corporate borrowing is high. Any further reduction in interest rates could accelerate the outflow of capital, after a record $300 billion has already left China this year. The continuing crisis is viewed, locally and globally, as a test of China’s control over the economy. The “Beijing put”—a perception that Chinese economy and markets are backstopped by the government—is under threat. That perception has underpinned the widespread belief that Chinese growth won’t fall much below 7%, because that is the government’s desired target and Beijing is omnipotent. Looming over all of this is China’s massive run-up in debt, which has increased by over $20 trillion—to around 300% of GDP—since the global financial crisis in 2008. All along, the bulls argued that Beijing has successfully managed every challenge to its three-decade economic boom, and that it could overcome the threat this debt represents. At a minimum, the argument went, China’s financial woes would be smaller than those of other countries with high levels of borrowing. This faith in Beijing encouraged many global hedge funds to pile into Chinese stocks. But if Beijing can’t stop the market’s tumble, there could be a sudden shift in the perception of exactly how far economic growth might fall under the weight of too much debt. If that floor crumbles and the Chinese economy spirals downward, it will make the drama surrounding Greece feel like a sideshow. China has been the largest contributor to global growth this decade; Greece’s economy is about the size as that of Bangladesh or Vietnam. There is no global drama that bears closer watching than Beijing’s battle for control.