The euphoria from the year-end melt up in Europe and the US failed to inspire Chinese traders, and overnight China markets suffered sharp losses, with the Shanghai Composite plunging 2.3%, its biggest one day drop since June 2016, over growing fears that the local bond rout is getting out of control. Both the tech-heavy Chinext and the blue chip CSI 300 Index dropped over 3%, as the sharp selloff accelerated in the last hour, as Beijing's "national team" plunge protection buyers failing to make an appearance. There were sixteen decliners for every one advancing share.
In addition to tech, consumer non-cyclical and health-care sectors, the hardest hit names were banks such as ICBC, Ping An Insurance and Kweichow Moutai. Over in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index slid 1 percent from a decade-high, one day after closing above 30,000.
Confirming our report from last week, that traders were stunned by an official warning from Beijing that some stocks - in this case Kweichow Moutai, one of the most popular stocks among investors - had risen "too far, too fast", Ken Peng, strategist at Citi private bank, told CNBC Thursday that over the weekend he had heard views about particular Chinese stocks having moved too fast. He also said that Thursday's downward move was impacted by "relative tight liquidity conditions in financial markets overall, because of a more stringent liquidity policy by the central bank."
"The decline in Moutai has triggered selloffs in some of this year’s best performing stocks," said Zhengyang Shen, Shanghai-based analyst at Northeast Securities. "When those giant stocks fall, retail investors will follow to sell their holdings. The ChiNext stocks do not have much support from the national team, so they fell even more," he said, referring to state-backed funds.
As Bloomberg adds, today’s tumble was especially jarring given this year’s relative placidity in the stock market - the world’s second-largest. Volatility on the Shanghai Composite Index fell to the lowest level in decades earlier this month amid signs the government was curbing speculation in the wake of 2015’s $5 trillion rout. For Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong, it’s too soon to talk about panic selling.
At the same time, just days after we warned that "A "New Era" In Chinese Regulation Means Turmoil For $15 Trillion In China's "Shadows", yields on sovereign debt and top-rated local corporate notes climbed to the highest level in three years as China's deleveraging campaign accelerated (don't worry, it will stop the moment one or more corp or sov issues go bidless). As Bloomberg adds, with more than $1 trillion of local bonds maturing in 2018-19, it will become increasingly expensive for Chinese companies to roll over financing.
"Cash is king now on the mainland," Castor Pang, head of research at Core-Pacific Yamaichi HK told Bloomberg. "Rising bond yields will be negative for corporate profits, since it will increase financing costs. That’s very bad news for the stock market."
Meanwhile, the yield on 10-year sovereign bonds rose above 4% on Wednesday, while yields on five-year top-rated local corporate notes have jumped about 33 basis points this month to a three-year high of 5.3 percent, according to data compiled by clearing house ChinaBond. That said, selling eased a little in the nation’s sovereign debt market on Thursday. The 10-year yield fell two basis points to 4.02%, after climbing 39 basis points this month, although the yield on five-year bonds rose three basis points to 4.04%.
Not even the PBOC's generous 100Bn yuan net liquidity injection helped ease liquidity and deleveraging nerves.
There was some good news, if only in terms of narratives: "You can say this is a correction but I don’t think it’s a market meltdown," Wong said. "Market sentiment is still okay but after recent gains it’s time to pull back."
"The plunge in China’s bond market is driving mainland stocks lower, especially financial-related shares," said Steven Leung, executive director at UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd. "Most A-share investors believe there will be further tightening in financial markets. Investor sentiment has been quite cautious in China, even though Hong Kong kept hitting 10-year high. There’s a lack of further momentum to move up."