Beijing tries to put the brakes on market

An investor views the stock index on display screens at a securities company in Chongqing, China.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The beauty of the space-time continuum is that when everything works out right, we can get tomorrow's news today.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange opened for trading at 9:15 in the morning Wednesday, China time. That was 9:15 last night on the U.S. East Coast, so American investors had plenty of time to adjust to what could well have been the market-moving news of the day.

Beijing's desperate to let some of the air out of China's stock market bubble. So yesterday morning, right before the market open, it tripled the tax rate on stock trades. The Shanghai composite index tumbled 6.5 percent in response.

Unlike February, though, this time Wall Street just shrugged. Shrugged itself all the way to a couple of record closes actually. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer has more on the Chinese markets.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: An average of 300,000 new accounts are opened for traders in China's soaring stock market — every day. But the Chinese government is trying to let a little air out of a possible stock-market bubble.

The bubble did deflate a bit, but Kevin Nealer of the Scowcroft Group says today's drop wasn't big enough to panic U.S. investors.

KEVIN NEALER: You'd have to see a move in excess of 20 or 30 percent before foreign investors would start to have a fundamental reassessment of the attraction of China stocks.

And China stocks are more attractive than ever to the Chinese. Standard and Poors' chief economist, David Wyss, says they saw today's market drop as a buying opportunity.

DAVID WYSS: Part of the problem in China is there aren't a lot of things to invest in. The stock market is the new toy — it's hot. Everybody wants in.

The Chinese government has tried to slow down the economy for the same reason the U.S. Federal Reserve strives for balanced growth. Like us, China is worried about inflation. So Beijing has raised interest rates and ordered banks to hold more currency in reserve — and away from speculative investors.

Jacques deLisle of the Foreign Policy Research Institute says the government is walking a fine line — economically and politically.

JACQUES DELISLE: It's essentially the deal they've struck — we'll make you rich if you keep fairly quiet politically, which requires a high growth rate. But if it overheats, then you run the risk of possibly the popping of a speculative bubble.

This is an especially tricky time for China's communist leaders. There's a key party meeting later this year. A bursting stock bubble would ruin the party for everyone.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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