China New Year: Stocks Crash, Gold Jumps

China crash (Andy Wong / Associated Press)
Andy Wong / Associated Press

China welcomed the New Year with a 7 percent stock market crash that was so intense that government authorities suspended trading across the nation.

Markets around the world plunged, with Asia and Europe down -3 percent, U.S. markets down 1.7 percent, and gold up 1.1 percent.

The new China crisis is expected to hammer demand for foreign luxury products. Tesla Motors shares plummeted 4 percent to $230 and Apple stock fell 2 percent to a new “bear-market” low of $103.

Chinese automatic “circuit breakers” were implemented by the China Securities Regulatory Commission to suspend trading automatically during a crash after the August 2015 wipe-out saw markets in the “Red Dragon” collapse by over a third. Trading was shuttered on January 3 nearly 90 minutes before the regular close, according to Stratfor Global Intelligence.

The plunge came after an official report from the China Iron and Steel Association that large and medium-sized Chinese steel mills reported losses of nearly $8.2 billion during the first 11 months of 2015. Bulk steel prices have fallen by 78 percent in the past two years. Despite massive government subsidies and purchases, China’s 101 largest steel mills’ total sales revenue fell by 19.3 percent in 2015 compared with the previous year.

Traders also blamed the crash on the scheduled end to lock-up restrictions against any selling by major stock shareholders, including insurance companies. The rule was mandated during the summer crash and was scheduled to end next week. The extraordinary withdrawal of institutions’ ability to cash-out was credited with stopping the crash and leading to a 25 percent rebound in the stock markets.

The decline of China’s stock market will undoubtedly lead to another plunge in real estate values, which had stabilized in the last few months after being down about 20 percent for the year.

Traders told Reuters that the selloff could pressure Chinese authorities to re-freeze IPOs to preserve liquidity, extend the share lockup to prevent more selling, and keep force the “national team” of brokerages and fund management firms to be on the hook to keep buying and holding stocks at a loss.


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