• Investment Management

China’s Scary Stock Plunge

China's wild stock-market ride meets all the criteria for a dangerous bubble, writes Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets and global macro at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

The following are excerpts from “China’s Stock Plunge Is Scarier Than Greece,” an article by Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets and global macro at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, published by The Wall Street Journal on July 7, 2015.

“China's state-sponsored stock-market rally is unraveling, with potentially dangerous consequences. The first major sign that all wasn't going according to script came on June 15. Chinese had awakened expecting big gains because it was President Xi Jinping's birthday, but the Shanghai market fell more than 2%. One deeply indebted day trader committed suicide by jumping out a window, his net worth wiped out by the collapse of a single stock that he had borrowed heavily to purchase. The market has since fallen by another 25%—and some fear that prices could go much lower.

“In most countries, no one thinks there is a link between a leader's birthday and the market. That such a theory prevails in China reflects the widespread belief that Beijing's authoritarian government can produce any economic outcome it wants. Now trust in China's ability to command and control the economy is faltering. If trust collapses, the global repercussions could be more severe than those from the Greek debt crisis."

“There are four basic signs of a bubble: prices disconnected from underlying economic fundamentals, high levels of debt for stock purchases, overtrading by retail investors, and exorbitant valuations. The Chinese stock market is at the extreme end on all four metrics, which is rare.”

“Today China's 90 million retail investors outnumber the 88 million members of its Communist Party. Two thirds of new investors lack a high school diploma. In rural villages, farmers have set up mini stock exchanges, and some say they spend more time trading than working in the fields.

“The signs of overtrading are hard to exaggerate. The total value of China's stock market is still less than half that of the U.S. market, but the trading volume on many recent days has exceeded that of the rest of the world's markets combined.”

Read the full editorial.

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