Last week's dead cat bounce in Chinese stocks - after Beijing did everything but launch a multi-trillion fiscal stimmy bazooka (something it will do, later if not sooner) - is a distant memory, and as Asian markets open for trading in the news week, Chinese markets are cratering with the Shanghai Composite plunging as much as 3.1% to a fresh five-year low..
... while the broader CSI 1,000 Index is also in free-fall and also on pace to re-test the 2018 lows with as many as 990 of the 1000 companies of the index in the red.
Putting the latest collapse in context, China's market capitalization has sunk by just over $1 trillion in the space of 13 trading days, dragging the total value of the nation’s equities under $8 trillion on Friday, from just above $9 trillion on Jan. 16, as the authorities’ hand-wringing about equity declines simply concentrated investors’ minds on the apparent lack of any solutions for the downturn.
There were several catalysts for the plunge, first and foremost appears to be Trump confirmation that he would impose a tariff on Chinese goods of more than 60% if elected, signaling an increasingly hawkish tone against the top supplier of goods to the US.
Speaking in an interview on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, Trump was asked about a Washington Post report that he was considering a flat 60% tariff on Chinese goods imports; Trump's response: “no, I would say maybe it’s going to be more than that.” The Bezos Post report on Jan. 27 sparked currency hedges by traders bracing for any market turbulence that policies under a second Trump presidency could set off.
Trump, who currently has a solid lead over Biden and is emerging as the favorite to win the Nov 2024 election, rejected criticism that the moves would start a trade war, saying that he “did great with China with everything” during his presidency.
The US imposed multiple rounds of tariffs on Chinese goods during the Trump administration, “amounting to an $80 billion tax increase on $380 billion worth of imports,” according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based research group. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods imports.
While Trump was likely in his conventional hyperbolic mode, Chinese investors did not see it that way, and Chinese stocks plunged to fresh multi year lows, after the latest disappointment from Beijing which again pledged to stabilize markets after shares sank to a five-year low in chaotic trading on Friday, without offering any specifics on just how it plans to end the relentless selloff that’s erased more than $6 trillion of value and dented confidence in the world’s second-largest economy.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission vowed on Sunday to prevent abnormal fluctuations, saying it would guide more medium- and long-term funds into the market and crack down on illegal activities including malicious short selling and insider trading. The brief statement followed a sudden plunge of as much as 3.4% in the benchmark CSI 300 Index on Friday — and an outpouring of frustration on social media from individual investors just days before families across the country gather to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
“The statement sought to stabilize investor sentiment, but didn’t touch on fundamental problems including a lack of confidence and huge economic uncertainty,” said Shen Meng, director at investment bank Chanson & Co. “Those issues are the causes of abnormal market fluctuation.”
While authorities have taken piecemeal steps to support the economy and markets in recent months and have discussed a potential stock stabilization fund, they’ve yet to announce any major moves to stop the selloff. Weak economic data, simmering geopolitical tensions with the US, a worsening property crisis and an opaque crackdown on the financial sector have all weighed on investor sentiment.
As reported last week, China's CSI 300 tumbled 6.3% in January, a record sixth straight month of losses. Shares then rallied briefly toward the end of the month after Bloomberg reported that authorities were seeking to mobilize about 2 trillion yuan ($278 billion) for a stabilization fund, but the market has since renewed its decline, reaching the lowest level since January 2019 as once again the Beijing trial baloon was just that, and nothing more. .
Meanwhile, the hail mary media bullshit and lies continued, and over the weekend, 21st Century Business Herald daily newspaper reported that authorities should set up a stabilization fund as soon as possible to boost market confidence, with an aim to get its size to 10 trillion yuan or more. Next up it will be 100 trillion in promises, then 1 quadrillion, only by then the SHCOMP will hit 0.
Meanwhile, in a sign of how exasperated some investors have become, thousands flocked to a social media account of the US embassy in Beijing to vent their frustrations over the economy and slumping share prices.
In the comment section of the embassy’s Weibo post on giraffe protection on Friday evening, some 53,000 users added remarks by Saturday evening, winning over 300,000 likes. China’s internet users often struggle to find a venue to air grievances about the economy or government performance, with official accounts of Chinese state agencies or media usually either disabling the comment function or only showing selected feedback.
In the end, the outcome is a clear one: either Beijing will watch powerless as 1 billion furious Chinamen start rioting in the streets as both the real estate and capital markets crater - and only then, after countless are dead, will it inject trillions into the economy, or someone in Beijing will come to their senses and do so before there is bloodshed... Not that that's a viable solution of course: at best, that's kicking the can by a few years, but in the grand scheme of things, can kicking is all the world has left. And now all eyes are now on China and every day that Beijing is just more talk and no action brings us closer to the world's biggest and most violent social revolt seen in history.