27
Aug

Why worries about China make sense

Written on August 27, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Financial crisis, Global Economy

James Ferguson illustration

I am neither intelligent enough to understand the behaviour of “Mr Market” — the manic-depressive dreamt up by investment guru, Benjamin Graham — nor foolish enough to believe I do. But he has surely been in a depressive phase. Behind this seem to be concerns about China. Is Mr Market right to be anxious? In brief, yes.

One must distinguish between what is worth worrying about and what is not. The decline of the Chinese stock market is in the second category. What is worth worrying about is the scale of the task confronting the Chinese authorities against their apparent inability to deal well with the bursting of a mere stock market bubble.

Stock markets have indeed been correcting, with the Chinese market in the lead. Between its peak in June and Tuesday, the Shanghai index fell by 43 per cent. Yet the Chinese stock market remains 50 per cent higher than in early 2014. The implosion of the second Chinese stock market bubble within a decade still seems unfinished. (See charts).

The Chinese market is not a normal one. Even more than most markets, this is a casino in which each player hopes to find a “greater fool” on whom to offload overpriced chips before it is too late. Such a market is bound to be extremely volatile. But its vagaries should tell one little about the wider Chinese economy.

Nevertheless, events in the Chinese market are of wider significance in two related ways. One is that the Chinese authorities decided to stake substantial resources and even their political authority on their (unsurprisingly unsuccessful) effort to stop the bubble’s collapse. The other is that they must have been driven to do so by concern over the economy. If they are worried enough to bet on such a forlorn hope, the rest of us should worry, too. Read more…

By Martin Wolf; Published on Aug. 25 in the Financial Times

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