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China brokers set up $19bn fund to stem market rout

Twenty one brokers to invest 15% of their net assets.

Chinese brokerage firms have come together to set up a stock-market fund, the latest effort to stem the biggest three-week drop in China’s key share index since 1992.

The 21 brokers led by Citic Securities Co. will invest the equivalent of 15 percent of their net assets as of the end of June, or no less than 120 billion yuan ($19.3 billion) in total, the Securities Association ofChina said in a statement on its website Saturday. The fund will invest in blue-chip exchange- traded funds, it said.

The move comes after measures to shore up equities failed to stop margin traders from unwinding positions at a record pace, with the market losing more than $2.8 trillion of value in three weeks. The People’s Bank of China cut interest rates last week, while margin-trading rules were eased and trading fees were cut Wednesday.

The new fund to bolster equities may have only “a fleeting effect when daily turnover has reached 2 trillion yuan”, according to 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.”

Small-Cap Stocks

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 had lost 33 percent from its June 3 peak as of Friday, trimming this year’s gains to 77 percent.

“The market’s most acute concern is still these smaller cap stocks, as investors levered up to buy them and now margin lending curbs hit them the hardest,” Hong said. “With their valuation in the stratosphere, nobody is willing to step in and bolster these stocks.”

The brokers on Saturday 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; it closed Friday at 3,686.92. Listed brokers will actively buy back outstanding shares, while encouraging their parent companies to increase holdings, according to the statement.

The group of 21 brokers said the economic fundamentals that had justified the stock market’s rally before the rout hadn’t changed.

“It is therefore our duty to unite in stabilizing this market,” the statement said.

Li-Gang Liu, chief China economist for the Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., said the market would eventually find its own level.

“If a listed company thinks its shares are undervalued it could buy back shares. Such purchases shouldn’t be triggered by any kinds of administrative calls,” he said. “I believe the market is still under big downward pressure.”

There remain additional steps the government could take to support the market. China’s central bank-affiliated Economic Observer reported last week the government is considering reducing the stamp tax, while the finance ministry said it will allow the national pension fund to invest in shares.

On Friday, China’s securities regulator said it will limit the number of initial public offerings this month and revise rules to encourage foreign investment in the market. Chinese media reported that a unit of China’s sovereign wealth fund has been buying exchange-traded funds in the past week to support the market.

©2015 Bloomberg News


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