China state funds start selling in warning sign for stock rally

  • Markets
  • Friday, 10 Jul 2020

CHINA acted to cool the speculative frenzy in its US$9.5 trillion stock market, snapping a euphoric eight-day surge that had fueled worries of a new equity bubble in the making.

Signs of Beijing’s unease over the rally’s speed emerged late Thursday, when a pair of government-owned funds announced plans to trim holdings of stocks that soared this week. On Friday the state-run China Economic Times warned about the dangers of a "crazy” bull market, while Caixin reported that regulators had asked mutual fund companies to cap the size of new products.

Traders said the moves amounted to a warning from Chinese officialdom that the country’s world-beating equity boom has gone too far, too fast. While cheerleading from state-run media helped ignite gains at the end of last month, authorities appear keen to engineer a steady bull market rather than a repeat of the bubble that ended in a $5 trillion crash five years ago.

"The signal could not be clearer -- stocks have just become too hot for the regulators’ liking,” said Niu Chunbao, a fund manager at Shanghai Wanji Asset Management Co. "A slight dip or so may put their minds more at ease at this point.” The SSE 50 Index of Shanghai’s largest stocks fell as much as 3% Friday. The gauge had closed Thursday within 2 percentage points of its intraday peak in 2015.

China’s National Council for Social Security Fund -- the country’s national pension fund -- said it intends to sell a stake of as much as 2% in People’s Insurance Company (Group) of China Ltd. The fund, which oversees about 2.2 trillion yuan ($314 billion) in assets, said the sale was part of its "regular divesting activities.” The National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Co. -- a far smaller state-backed semiconductor fund aimed at fostering China’s homegrown chipmakers -- announced plans to offload shares in three firms. Textile maker Wuxi Taiji Industry Co., Shenzhen Goodix Technology Co., and Beijing BDStar Navigation Co. fell at least 2.5%.

The role of state-backed funds in China’s market landscape became apparent during the 2015 stock rout, when firms like China Securities Finance Corp. and Central Huijin Investment Ltd. worked to counter big equity losses.

Chinese stocks had added about $1 trillion in value this week -- far outpacing gains in every other market worldwide. Signs of euphoria among the nation’s investing masses are popping up everywhere: turnover has soared, margin debt has risen at the fastest pace since 2015 and online trading platforms have struggled to keep up.

The securities regulator had already taken some steps to limit speculative behavior, publishing a list of 258 illegal margin financing platforms on Wednesday. It also warned investors to stay away from the unauthorized platforms.

Foreign investors turned net sellers of Chinese shares for the first time this month on Friday, dumping a net 4.6 billion yuan as of 2:47 p.m. local time. They had pumped a net 63 billion yuan across the border via exchange links in July. - Bloomberg

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