There’s Something Brewing in China

Chinese stocks indexes just had their best week since 2015.

Back in January, equity markets in China were the first to suffer the negative impacts of a Covid-fueled economic collapse. Now, spurred on by bullish commentary from state-owned media, markets are on the rise. Check out the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index so far this year:

The recent rally stirs memories of 2015, still fresh in the minds of many investors, when the CSI 300 rallied more than 150% in 12 months’ time – but then collapsed in epic fashion. The years since have been nothing short of a headache for those who’ve watched closely. Amid a global manufacturing slowdown in 2016, followed by a domestic real estate crisis, rising geopolitical tensions and trade wars in the years after, stocks went nowhere fast for 5 years. But breakouts tend to make headaches fade.

The index is only 11% below its 2015 high.

With a multi-year consolidation now acting as support, retail investors in China are gearing up for a major rally. Here are a few quotes compiled by Bloomberg News:

“There’s no way I can lose,” said the 36-year-old, who works at a technology startup and opened her first trading account in Beijing on Tuesday. “Right now, I’m feeling invincible.”

“With leverage, it only makes sense to add it when you can be 100% certain of gains,” said Li, adding that his family sold property last year to buy stocks. “That usually happens when the old grannies start rushing in during the mid-to late stage of a rally. We are not there yet, but when the time comes I will be ready.”

“Everything is different this time,” said the 44-year-old from his office in Beijing, where he runs a movie equipment business.

“I’m confident that I’ll be able to exit just before the market slump,” he said. “You can do that as long as you’re not too greedy.”

While most of us are familiar with the negative headlines surrounding retail investors in the United States, their impact is muted in a market dominated by professional money managers and institutional investors. But retail investors in China play a larger role, accounting for more than 80% of trading volume there. Rapid shifts in retail sentiment often lead to rapid market moves. One way to measure that sentiment is by monitoring the value of trades made on margin.

Margin balances are still well below their 2015 peaks. By this measure, we’ve still got a long way to go before we reach the same level of euphoria. To get there, more of the market will have to start looking like Chinese internet stocks, below.

Internet stocks outperformed since the 2015 collapse, but fell along with the rest of the market in mid-2018. After 2 years of consolidation, they’re now up more than 40% year-to-date. They could have further to go.

Nothing in this post or on this site is intended as a recommendation or an offer to buy or sell securities. Posts on Means to a Trend are meant for informational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in posts. Please see my Disclosure page for more information.

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