Take the Money and Run

by CHINA HAND

Take the money and run. That’s what appears to have been behind the crash of the Shanghai stock market on February 27.

In early February, Time did a good job of describing the liquidity-fueled stock bubble in China, which looked just like the last stock market bubble in China, and the one before that.

Last year 2.4 million investors began trading stocks through the Shanghai exchange, a 250% increase in new accounts. That’s an average of about 7,000 a day, a flood of fresh blood from san hu (as the Chinese call small investors) that is making seasoned traders nervous. "When you see shop assistants and taxi drivers racing out to borrow money to buy stocks, you’ve got trouble," says commodities guru Jim Rogers. "That’s the market sucking in a whole lot of neophytes priming to get slaughtered."

When that article was written, the average P/E ratio on the Shanghai Stock Exchange was 45, compared to 18 for the NYSE.

And it had gone up since then, with the index crossing the 3000 mark and setting a new record on the first trading day after Chinese New Years’.

To my mind, there are only two kinds of people who continue to pour money into an overvalued market like this: cretins and criminals.

The cretins never know when to stop.

The criminals, on the other hand, know when a good thing is about to come to an end.

Some observers apparently thought that the rumor of an impending capital gains tax was enough to end the party.

I tend to attribute the crash to reports of an impending government crackdown against illegal bank loans i.e. bank loans taken out for ostensibly for business and capital construction purchases but diverted to stock market speculation.

This is probably as close to a smoking gun as we’ll get, from China Daily on January 30:

China’s banking regulators have banned commercial banks from giving loans for stock investment and to investigate and call in all loans suspected of being used for such investment.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) would dispatch officials to examine loans at all commercial banks after the Spring Festival, which will fall on February 18, said an official with the China Banking Regulatory Commission, who declined to identified.

A crackdown right after Chinese New Year.

Just when the market crashed.

How about that.

The first thing the banks do when they hear about a possible audit is to try to call in suspicious loans and clean up their books; and that would be the signal for the speculators to realize their gains and get out of the market.

As to why the loss of 8% in market capitalization on a highly speculative bourse with minimal foreign exposure would give the New York Stock market the heebie-jeebies: it would be a dismaying indication of the tangential bad news that U.S. traders were looking for to confirm their own pessimism.

If I were in the U.S. markets, I would worry less about a much-needed $100 billion correction in Shanghai, than I would about the absolutely catastrophic news that the OMB was correcting its growth estimate for fourth quarter 2006 U.S. GDP from a heartening 3.5% to a dismal 2%.

That’s an overestimate of 75%, representing a contraction in anticipated GDP of perhaps $50 billion for the quarter, with a commensurate reduction in profits translating into a shrink in market capitalization of perhaps $200 billion based on real world-as opposed to speculative-valuation.

And it’s a sign that the U.S. is continuing to plod into a recession instead of pulling out of one.

For China, on the other hand, the crash is good news for everyone except, inevitably, its mismanaged banks, which have probably accumulated a fresh inventory of funny paper for their bad debt portfolios.

Fewer loans are written, macro control of the runaway economy is strengthened, inflationary pressures are reduced, the hemorrhaging of money from productive to speculative endeavors is staunched, and taxi drivers and shop assistants learn a salutary lesson about the risks of capitalism.

The big money players, I suspect, didn’t get skinned.

They took the money and ran-away from the stock market and back to the bond market and banking system.

That’s something I suspect doesn’t bother the government one bit.

CHINA HAND edits the very interesting website China Matters.


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 4-6, 2015
Lawrence Ware
No Refuge: the Specter of White Supremacy Still Haunts Black America
Paul Street
Bi-Polar Disorder: Obama’s Bait-and-Switch Environmental Politics
Vijay Prashad
Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe
Arun Gupta
Field Notes to Life During the Apocalypse
Steve Hendricks
Come Again? Second Thoughts on My Ashley Madison Affair
Paul Craig Roberts
Whither the Economy?
Ron Jacobs
Bernie Sanders’ Vision: As Myopic as Every Other Candidate or Not?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Arkansas Bloodsuckers: the Clintons, Prisoners and the Blood Trade
Richard W. Behan
Republican Fail, Advantage Sanders: the Indefensible Budget for Defense
Ted Rall
Call It By Its Name: Censorship
Susan Babbitt
“Swarms” Entering the UK? What We Can Still Learn About the Migrant Crisis From Che Guevara
Andrew Levine
Compassionate Conservatism: a Reconsideration and an Appreciation
Kali Akuno
Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era
John Wight
Adrift Without Sanctuary: a Sick and Twisted Morality
Binoy Kampmark
Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange
Colin Todhunter
Europe’s Refugee Crisis and the Depraved Morality of David Cameron
JP Sottile
Chinese Military Parade Freak-Out
Kathleen Wallace
The Child Has a Name, They All Do
David Rosen
Why So Few Riots?
Norm Kent
The Rent Boy Raid: Homeland Security Should Monitor Our Borders Not Our Bedrooms
Michael Welton
Canada’s Arrogant Autocrat: the Rogue Politics of Stephen Harper
Patrick T. Hiller
There’s Nothing Collateral About a Toddler Washed Ashore
Ramzy Baroud
Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian Democracy?
Jim Connolly
Sniping at the Sandernistas: Left Perfectionism in the Belly of the Beast
Pepe Escobar
Say Hello to China’s New Toys
Sylvia C. Frain
Tiny Guam, Huge US Marine Base Expansions
Pete Dolack
Turning National Parks into Corporate Profit Centers
Ann Garrison
Africa’s Problem From Hell: Samantha Power
Dan Glazebrook
British Home Secretary Theresa May: Savior or Slaughterer of Black People?
Christopher Brauchli
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Citigroup
Norman Pollack
Paradigm of a Fascist Mindset: Nicholas Burns on Iran
Linn Washington Jr.
Critics of BlackLivesMatter# Practice Defiant Denial
Roger Annis
Canada’s Web of Lies Over Syrian Refugee Crisis
Chris Zinda
Constitutional Crisis in the Heart of Dixie
Rannie Amiri
Everything Stinks: Beirut Protests and Garbage Politics
Graham Peebles
Criminalizing Refugees
Missy Comley Beattie
In Order To Breathe
James McEnteer
Blast From the Past in Buenos Aires
Patrick Higgins
A Response to the “Cruise Missile Left”
Tom H. Hastings
Too Broke to Pay Attention
Edward Leer
Love, Betrayal, and Donuts
Cesar Chelala
Cruelty is Not a Human Right
Louis Proyect
Migrating Through Hell: Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”
Charles R. Larson
Class and Colonialism in British Cairo
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms