World Economy

China Freezes Share Offers as Market Plunges

China Freezes Share Offers as Market PlungesChina Freezes Share Offers as Market Plunges

China freezes share offers and sets up a market-stabilization fund, as Beijing intensifies efforts to pull stock markets out of a nose-dive that for many global investors, is worse than the Greek debt crisis.

Beijing’s reported suspension of initial public offers came a few hours after extraordinary announcements by major brokers and fund managers which collectively pledged to invest at least $25 billion of their own money into stocks, Reuters reported.

China’s government, regulators and financial institutions have waged a concerted campaign to prop up the nation’s two main share markets, amid fears that a meltdown would rock the financial system and inflict heavy losses across an economy where annual growth is already running at a 24-year low.

Almost $4 trillion in market value—more than the entire economic output of Brazil—has been wiped out since markets went into reverse last month, posing a bigger headache for many global investors than even the Greek debt crisis.

The main Shanghai Composite Index has lost around 30% of its value in three weeks—a dramatic end to an equally breathtaking rally that saw it more than double in just seven months, fuelled by official interest-rate cuts. The sell-off is especially worrying because the bull market had been built on a mountain of speculative loans.

Some analysts have suggested total margin lending, both formal and informal, could add up to around $858 billion. The stock markets are dominated by retail investors.

 Policy Confusion

China’s top brokerages said on Saturday they would collectively buy at least 120 billion yuan ($26.6 billion) of shares—a pledge that, according to the Wall Street Journal, would form part of Beijing’s new stabilization fund.

Separately on Saturday, 25 Chinese mutual funds announced they too would put their own capital into stocks. The fund managers did not give a figure but said they would invest into their own funds, alongside their customers.

Later, 28 Chinese firms announced in individual statements they would suspend their own IPO plans due to market volatility. They did not mention any central decision to halt IPOs.

The securities regulator had already announced on Friday it would reduce the number of IPOs and other capital-raisings. The freezing of IPOs can lend support to a falling market because large amounts of money are frozen when subscriptions are taken, drying up liquidity in the market. Large IPOs have been cited as a reason for triggering the recent plunge.

Beijing has unleashed a barrage of official policy moves over the past week, including an interest rate cut, a relaxation of margin-lending rules and additional bank liquidity. But these efforts have so far failed to convince investors.

BOCOM International Strategist Hong Hao doubted the move by brokers alone would be enough to stabilize share prices—unless even more leverage was added to the market.

“Around 120 billion yuan is not enough, but if leverage (more borrowing) is used, it could expand to over 500 billion yuan ($107 billion) and that may have some effect,” he said.