Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What the Bear Market in Chinese Stocks is Telling Us

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

China has been the economic engine powering the global recovery, but the engine may be sputtering based on the behavior of Chinese stocks. The Shanghai Composite has been trading in bear market territory since May 6th.

Unlike the U.S., UK and EU, which have service based economies, China's economy is heavily industrial. What takes place in China provides important information about the state of the global manufacturing. Activity in China is a key driver of the markets for industrial metals, materials, and energy. It was just announced in the media that China has become the largest consumer of energy commodities globally; pulling ahead of the United States, but the Chinese government has denied it.

Since the major Western economies and the Chinese economy have different compositions, it is reasonable to assume that their stock markets could trade in different patterns. The bull market peaks came at about the same time however. The Shanghai market hit a bottom around 1000 in mid-2005 and entered a bubble pattern in 2006, which continued until a high of 6036 was reached on October 17, 2007. As the bubble burst, Chinese stocks fell 72% until the market reached 1707 on November 4, 2008.  Unlike U.S. stocks, which continued to fall until they reached their bottom in early March 2009, the Shanghai composite then began to rally. The prices for metals, materials, and the companies that produce them tended to follow the Chinese market and not Western markets - investors should keep this in mind for future reference. Oil didn't bottom until mid-February 2009 though.

Not only did the Shanghai Composite hit its low four months earlier than the U.S. market, its high from the rally that followed took place well before the top in Western stock markets. So far, Chinese stocks topped at 3471 on August 4, 2009. U.S. stocks peaked on April 26, 2010. By the end of August 2009 the Shanghai index was down more than 20% on a closing basis, but only briefly. After some recovery, stocks entered bear market territory again for a few days in the end of September. They then moved up and traded with less than a 20% drop from the August peak for many months until May 6th of this year. Chinese stocks have continued to trade at a bear market loss since that date.

Poor performance of Chinese stocks indicates weakness in the global industrial economy. Most commodities are likely to suffer declines as a result. This has more significance for the U.S. currently than it usually would ordinarily because the industrial sector of the economy has performed best during the recovery. The much bigger service sector has remained fairly anemic despite $3 trillion of federal deficit spending in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. If U.S. manufacturing turns negative, and behavior of Chinese stocks indicates is might, the U.S. economy is likely to follow.

Disclosure: No positions.

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

No comments: