Don't write off China equities just yet

Don't write off China equities just yet

CHINA - Just a few years ago, China looked invincible.

Even when the US sub-prime crisis erupted in August 2007, hopes that the mainland would relax its strict capital control to allow its citizens to invest in overseas equities kept the Asian markets buoyant for a few more months before the appetite for equities soured.

It enabled the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) to hit a record high of 3,831.19 in October that year.

But the region-wide rally was stopped in its tracks by China's decision to put the overseas equity investment scheme on the back-burner the following month and it has stayed there ever since.

Fast-forward a few years and people no longer seem to be enthralled by the China story. A sudden credit crunch caused the Shanghai stock market to crash an eye-popping 5.3 per cent in a single day last month.

Old arguments have been dredged up to support the case against investing in China equities - that its people are a demographic time-bomb which will grow old before getting rich, that they are saddled by a gigantic shadow banking sector resembling a giant Ponzi scheme and that the frothing real estate bubble might just burst any time.

Even news on the economic front has not been encouraging. On Monday, China reported that its second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed to 7.5 per cent, weighed down by weaker exports and faltering investments.

And it would appear that China's growth may slow even more - its finance minister, Mr Lou Jiwei, made a Freudian slip at a news conference in Washington last week when he said he expected 7 per cent growth this year.

This is well below the official growth target of 7.5 per cent.

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