That’s actually a trick question. No one seems to know how China’s stock markets have lost more than three trillion dollars since mid-June. The major markets have dropped by 30-40% over the last few weeks, and the Chinese government keeps announcing more and more emergency measures. Nothing has worked yet, as trading on Wednesday produced another plunge:
China stocks plunged again on Wednesday, even as regulators worked to contain a crisis that has wiped trillions of dollars off the country’s stock markets.
The Shanghai Composite plunged 8% at the market open on Wednesday, before recovering to trade 4% lower by mid-day. The vast majority of stocks listed on the benchmark index were down by 10%, the maximum limit stocks are allowed to fall before being halted. The smaller Shenzhen Composite was off by 3%. …
Since June 12, the Shanghai Composite has lost an unnerving 32%. The Shenzhen market, which has more tech companies and is often compared to America’s Nasdaq index, is down 41% over the same period.
It’s not as if Beijing has had a laissez-faire approach to the problem. As this Lex analysis from the day before the latest jolt notes, “they have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink,” but it’s not helping much:
Robert Fitzgerald of Lex is actually upbeat about the failure of China’s broad intervention. Investors may not be so sanguine about it, but at the least they are unimpressed by it:
China stocks tumbled to four-month lows on Wednesday morning as investors dumped both small and big caps, defying government attempts to stabilize the market, while nearly half of Chinese listed companies have halted trading to insulate themselves from the meltdown.
The panic in mainland markets is rippling across the border, knocking the Hong Kong market down more than 4 percent. Overseas-listed Chinese companies also slumped.
In light of the failure to stem the tide on Wednesday, the government announced even more measures designed to bolster the market — or more specifically, the share prices of state-owned companies. The central bank signaled that it would start injecting liquidity into the markets, which sounds familiar:
The central bank said it will provide “ample liquidity to support stock market stability” through a government-owned company that lends to brokerages to finance share purchases, a practice known as margin lending. The People’s Bank of China gave no indication how much money it might inject into the system. …
The emergency measures announced so far are aimed at shoring up the prices of shares in major state-owned companies, while those of smaller and private companies have received little support.
The weekend announcements included a pledge by state-owned brokerages to buy “blue-chip” stocks, or shares in major state companies.
So no one seems to know how to halt the slide, or if they do they’re not in a position to implement a plan. Their markets have lost more than three trillion dollars in value, and so far the bottom is not in sight. Perhaps it can’t be fixed because it’s not broken, or rather that it’s been broken all along and this might be a tough-love cure. One analyst tweeted that this is actually less of a crisis than it is a long-overdue correction:
China's stock market had become detached from reality of China's own economy, and appallingly overvalued. This is gravity taking effect.
— Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) July 8, 2015
That also sounds a bit familiar. This explains why Lex’s Fitzgerald was not terribly unhappy to see the interventions fail. If the stock prices were “appallingly overvalued,” that’s probably due in part to China’s policies, and more intervention won’t fix that problem. One has to wonder whether a rational revaluation would be possible in a panic sell-off, which this appears to be, and whether intervening only on behalf of state-owned firms might exacerbate that problem even further. Regardless, it’s a situation that bears watching, especially for any hint that the contagion may spread to other markets. Hong Kong has already dropped 4%, and they may not be the last.