China's stocks sink most since 2007 as state intervention fails

China's stock market plummets to all time low. (Reuters)

China's stock market plummets to all time low. (Reuters)

The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 8.9% to 3 197.31 at 1.14pm local time, erasing its gain for the year. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 7.6%, poised for its biggest decline since 2008. Futures on the CSI 300 Index decline by the 10% daily limit.

Worsening economic data and signs of capital outflows are undermining unprecedented government attempts to shore up the country’s $6-trillion stock market. While China said over the weekend it will allow pension funds to buy shares for the first time, a speculated cut in bank reserve ratios failed to materialise.

“This is a real disaster and it seems nothing can stop it,” Chen Gang, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Heqitongyi Asset Management Co. “If we don’t cut holdings ourselves, the fund faces risk of forced closure. Many newly started private funds suffered that recently. I hope we can survive.”

More than 750 stocks fell by the daily 10% limit on the Shanghai Composite, including China Shenhua Energy and China Shipbuilding Industry. The gauge has tumbled 38% from its June 12 peak to wipe out more than $4-trillion of value.

The Hang Seng Index sank 5.5% in Hong Kong. The gauge’s relative strength index declined to 15.4, the lowest since the aftermath of the October 1987 stock market crash. A level below 30 signals to some traders losses are overdone. Taiwan’s Taiex index slid as much as 7.5%.

Stock valuations
Economic growth slowed to 6.6% in July, according to Bloomberg’s monthly GDP tracker. China’s first major economic indicator for August signaled a further deterioration as a private manufacturing index fell to the lowest level in six years.

“China’s economy is pretty ugly and some sectors have bubbles,” said Wu Kan, a Shanghai-based fund manager at JK Life Insurance, who’s keeping his holdings unchanged. “Selling pressure around global markets is also weighing on local sentiment. The Shanghai Composite may fall to around the 3 000-point level.”

Stocks on mainland bourses traded at a median 61 times reported earnings on Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most among the 10 largest markets and more than three times the 19 multiple for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Stock outflows
Yuan positions at the central bank and financial institutions fell by the most on record last month, a sign capital outflows have picked up. Chinese equity funds were the biggest contributors to more than $4-billion of outflows in Asia excluding Japan in the week to August 19, EPFR Global said. Margin traders reduced holdings of shares purchased with borrowed money for a fourth day on August 21.

PetroChina, the nation’s biggest company by market value, plummeted 8.4%. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the second largest, headed for its biggest loss since January 19 with a 7.7% slump.

The State Council, or cabinet, on Sunday announced it will allow pension funds to invest as much as 30% of their total net assets in stocks. Pension funds had net assets of 3.5-trillion yuan ($547-billion) by the end of 2014, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The move is the latest attempt by the government to support the equity market, after arming a state agency with more than $400-billion, banning selling by major shareholders and telling state-owned companies to buy stocks.

“The news on pension funds over the weekend was positive, but not having the expected required-reserve ratio cut or any other larger measure seems to have disappointed investors,” said Gerry Alfonso, a Shanghai-based trader at Shenwan Hongyuan Group Co. “But it is questionable whether even with one the market would have rebounded.” – Bloomberg

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