China Intensifies Steps to End $3.2 Trillion Stock Rout
China suspended initial public offerings, while brokerages pledged to buy shares and state media urged investors not to panic as officials intensified efforts to stop the steepest plunge in equities since 1992.
Twenty-eight companies halted their IPOs, according to filings to the nation’s two exchanges Saturday. A group of 21 brokerages led by Citic Securities Co. will invest at least 120 billion yuan ($19.3 billion) in a stock-market fund, the Securities Association of China said the same day.
Executives from 25 mutual funds vowed to buy shares and hold them for at least a year, according to an industry group association.
“Declines of such a magnitude are enough to trigger a financial crisis and the issue is now elevated to state level,” said Li Jingyuan, general manager of the securities investment department at Shanghai Zhaoyi Asset Management. “It’s about restoring confidence now.”
The weekend announcements come as the government battles to restore faith among the nation’s 90 million individual investors after a slew of measures by regulators, including a pledge to investigate market manipulation, failed to stem declines.
The Shanghai Composite Index has tumbled 29 percent in the previous three weeks, helping to erase $3.2 trillion of value, on concern leveraged traders are liquidating bets after equity valuations exceeded levels during the country’s stock-market bubble of 2007.
Central Huijin Investment Ltd., a unit of China’s sovereign wealth fund, said Sunday it bought exchange-traded funds on the secondary market recently.
The People’s Bank of China will offer China Securities Finance Corp., which manages the nation’s short selling and margin trading, liquidity support, according to a statement on the China Securities Regulatory Commission website Sunday.
Moves to stabilize the market take time to transmit, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site.
“During this process, investors should have confidence and patience, instead of losing their minds and not knowing what to do amid anxiety and panic,” the newspaper said.
Officials have made late-night announcements almost every day during the last week, including an easing of margin-trading rules and lower trading fees, after an interest-rate cut failed to stop the benchmark index entering a bear market on June 29. The Finance Ministry said the same day it will allow the national pension fund to invest in shares.
The outstanding balance of margin loans on the Shanghai Stock Exchange dropped for a ninth day on Thursday, sliding to 1.29 trillion yuan in the longest stretch of declines since the city’s bourse began compiling the data.
A fivefold surge in borrowing had helped propel the benchmark stock index to a 150 percent advance in the 12 months through June 12.
The authorities are determined to shore up the $6.9 trillion stock market even if it means reversing reforms, according to Partners Capital International Ltd. The Communist Party’s Central Committee pledged in 2013 to make markets “decisive” in allocating resources and to limit the government’s role to maintaining stability.
“They have the whatever-it-takes mentality,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive officer of Partners Capital International in Hong Kong. “Early on Monday, the market may show a knee-jerk reaction to the measures but I am not sure how sustainable it will be. Whether it’s a rally or a decline, it’s policy driven, not market-oriented.”
The IPO suspension was ordered at a meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet, and will be enforced by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the financial magazine Caijing reported on its website on Saturday, without saying how it obtained the information or how long the planned freeze would last.
Funds will be returned to investors on Monday for the new offerings that had already started the subscription process, the companies said in filings to the exchanges.
Calls by Bloomberg News to the press office of the State Council went unanswered outside regular business hours.
There won’t be any new IPOs in the near future and the number and value of share sales will be significantly reduced once they resume, the CSRC said in a statement on its website Sunday.
The 21 brokers pledged not to reduce any proprietary investments in the equity market as long as the Shanghai Composite Index stays below 4,500, the association said.
The measure closed at 3,686.92 on Friday. Listed brokers will actively buy back outstanding shares, while encouraging their parent companies to increase holdings, according to the statement.
The plan by trading firms to boost shares may have only “a fleeting effect” given daily turnover is nearing 2 trillion yuan, said Hao Hong, China equity strategist at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong.
“This 120 billion yuan won’t last for an hour in this market,” Hong said by phone from Beijing Saturday. “It might benefit blue-chip stocks, as investors may see them as value, but the bursting of the bubble in small-cap/tech stocks is likely to continue.”
The ChiNext index of smaller companies in Shenzhen traded at a record 131 times reported earnings last month, five times the level of the Shanghai Composite Index, after tripling over the past year. The gauge has lost more than 30 percent from its June 3 peak through Friday.
China’s largest companies rallied last week on suspected buying by state-linked funds, according to IG Asia Pte. PetroChina Co. surged 12 percent, the most since December, while Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., jumped 6.6 percent. The Shanghai index sank 12 percent.
The measures should succeed in stopping declines in stocks and if they don’t, officials will roll out more, said Chen Ruiming, a Shanghai-based strategist at Haitong Securities Co.
“The government can still impose some restrictions on trading, such as the short selling of index futures, should the market continue to drop,” Chen said. “If the situation remains unchecked, it may cause dysfunction in the financial market.”