Chinese stocks rose strongly for a second day on Friday, July 10, buoyed by a barrage of government support measures, but worries persist about the long-term impact that four weeks of stock market turmoil may have on the world’s second-largest economy.
Over the past two weeks Chinese authorities have cut interest rates, suspended initial public offerings, relaxed margin lending and collateral rules and enlisted brokerages to buy stocks, backed by cash from the central bank.
Some analysts predict further moves to come from the central bank, which often makes policy announcements over the weekend, such as another rate cut or relaxation of the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves.
The frantic efforts to stem the market slide finally began to gain traction on Thursday, when shares rose around six percent after the securities regulator banned shareholders with large stakes in listed firms from selling.
The CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose another 6 percent on Friday, while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 5.4 percent.
At the depths of their slump earlier this week Chinese shares had fallen more than 30 percent from their mid-June peak, and for some global investors China’s market turmoil had become a greater concern than the crisis in Greece.
Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note they expected the ripple effect to eventually hit the real economy and corporate earnings.
“We expect this will likely hurt consumption down the road,” the note said. “More critical is a potential distortion to credit flows due to the impairment to financial institutions’ balance sheets.”
While Beijing’s efforts appear to have put a floor under the stock market for now – on Friday, July 10, China’s main indexes were just below the levels they opened at on Monday – it was still far from functioning normally.
Roughly half of China’s listed companies were suspended from trading as they tried to sit out the market turmoil, and many of those still trading are propped up by state-directed buying.
On Friday Shanghai Securities News reported that insurers had bought 112.3 billion yuan ($18.1 billion) of equity since the rout began.
The plunge in China’s previously booming stock markets, which had more than doubled in the year to mid-June, has created a major headache for President Xi Jinping and China’s top leaders, who are already grappling with slowing growth.
Many investors say China’s unprecedented attempts to arrest the slide have undermined its commitment to give markets a “decisive” role in pricing assets.
“They can probably stabilise the market, but it will be a political decision, as they will have to compel government, state agencies, banks, pension funds, insurance companies to buy,” said Ashok Shah, investment director at London & Capital.
“Essentially the political decision is: to transfer the potential losses from private investors … to the state in some manner.”