Shanghai stocks fell to their lowest in two months on Wednesday, as investor worries deepened that tighter regulations against speculation and shadow banking will hurt the country’s nascent recovery which has been heavily reliant on credit expansion. China’s blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.8 percent, to 3,435.93 points by the lunch break, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.0 percent, to 3,163.57 points. Both indexes are set for the fourth day of losses.
Small-caps performed worse, with an index tracking small- and medium-sized enterprises tumbling 1.5 percent. Analysts attributed the recent market weakness to worries that China’s economic recovery since late last year – triggered by Beijing’s stimulus measures, is fading amid the government’s renewed campaign against excessive leverage and asset bubbles.
China has stepped up property curbs in major cities, launched a nationwide inspection on banks’ businesses with a focus on shadow banking, and vowed to “brandish the sword” to fight speculation in the stock market. “Tough regulations have soured the market mood,” said Wu Kan, Shanghai-based head of equity trading at Shanshan Finance.
Underscoring the painful trade-off China is facing, the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday warned of potential disruptions in the medium term in the Chinese economy unless the country reduces its reliance on rapid credit growth.
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Some investors worry that strong economic growth reported in the first quarter will begin to ease in coming months as the effect of earlier stimulus starts to fade, and as local governments announce tougher measures to curb the overheated property market.
The central bank has also signalled it has moved to a tighter monetary policy bias and has been gingerly raising short-term interest rates to try to contain risks in the system and discourage speculation. Shares fell across the board, with raw material shares among the worst casualties as commodity prices fell sharply.
But consumer and healthcare stocks – which are generally viewed as defensive in nature – continued to outperform the broader market, which fund manager Wu attributed to the need for “investors to gather together for warmth” amid a time of volatility.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 0.6 percent, to 23,779.90 points, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 0.9 percent, to 9,955.30. The market retreated amid gloom in global equity markets, as risk appetite waned ahead of presidential elections in France and on escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.
(Reporting by Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)