China’s bulls stampede as recovery gathers strength

China's benchmark CSI 300 stockmarket index has gained 12% so far this year and is up by 32% since 23 March as the country's industrial and consumer recovery contnues.

China’s recovery is gathering strength, say Finbarr Bermingham and Amanda Lee in the South China Morning Post. Industrial production continues to lead the way, rising by 5.6% in August on a year before. There are also signs of a consumer rebound: retail sales advanced by 0.5% on the year in August, the first growth recorded this year. 

China is the only big economy the International Monetary Fund thinks will expand this year. The encouraging economic backdrop means the bulls are out in force. The benchmark CSI 300 stock market index has gained 12% so far this year and is up by 32% since 23 March. 

The rally has brought plenty of signs of excess. Shares on the Star market, a technology-focused equivalent to America’s Nasdaq, have been trading at “huge premiums” to “near-identical” stocks listed in Hong Kong, says Xie Yu in The Wall Street Journal. The fact that local investors are willing to pay up to five times as much as offshore buyers for the same assets suggests a speculative frenzy. However, regulators intervened to cool excesses over the summer, with the CSI 300 now off 3% from a mid-July high. The Star market froth makes more sense than you think, says Shuli Ren on Bloomberg. Too often foreign investors think China is “just another growing emerging market” with a rising middle class. 

That prompts them to buy into consumer stocks such as Luckin Coffee (which later turned out to be a fraud). Locals, by contrast, know that nothing is as solid as a sector that has almost unconditional government backing: pricey technology firms. Chinese markets are driven by retail investors and can provide a wild ride. But authorities tend to step in if they fall too far. In a lousy year for the global economy, China’s markets are a rare bright spot. 

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