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更新时间:2015-7-7 19:49:00 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Chinese Investors Who Borrowed Are Hit Hard by Market Turn

SHANGHAI — With his stock market riches, Gong Yifeng bought a riverfront apartment here for his son and daughter-in-law. He can eat well and travel abroad. He can also afford to pay for his granddaughter’s education.


But the losses are rapidly piling up for Mr. Gong, a retired shipyard worker. With China’s stock market 30 percent off its highs, his portfolio is down more than $30,000 in the last few weeks.


“I don’t need a high-flying market, just a stable one,” Mr. Gong said.


Millions of ordinary investors like Mr. Gong, who piled into an ever-soaring Chinese stock market over the last year, are bracing for a roller-coaster ride.


With stock prices plummeting, the government announced plans over the weekend to help prop up the market. While big state-owned companies fared relatively well on Monday, smaller companies continued to slide. The fallout also spread to the Hong Kong markets.


The situation is putting ordinary investors, many of whom invested in smaller stocks, in a difficult place. This latest slump may be just another periodic price dip. Or it could be the beginning of a lengthy downturn, like the one that started in late 2007, when the market eventually fell about 70 percent.


For now, Mr. Gong, 65, is sticking with stocks.


“Where else can an ordinary person like me put my money?” Mr. Gong said on Monday, as he watched a board of flickering stock prices at a brokerage firm in downtown Shanghai. “People like me can’t just start investing in properties.”


What happened in China over the last year looks like another episode of the madness of crowds, when many investors seem to lose their senses. They started to borrow money on margin to buy shares they couldn’t afford. They bet everything on the belief that this was a new era, gleefully believing stocks moved in only one direction.


But there is a major difference between the markets in China and those in the other big economies like the United States. In China, mom-and-pop investors, rather than big institutions, make up the bulk of stock purchases. Such smaller players don’t necessarily have the resources to withstand the volatility.


The stock market boom began to take shape a year ago.


As property prices slumped, the government started to cut interest rates in an effort to stabilize the economy. With share prices looking undervalued and real estate in a rut, money flowed into stocks, said Chang Chun, a finance expert and executive dean at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

随着房地产价格下跌,政府开始降息来稳定经济。由于股价被低估,楼市止步不前,资金流入了股市,上海交通大学上海高级金融学院执行院长、金融专家张春(Chang Chun)说。

The government further fueled interest by viewing the market as a way to help start-ups and innovative companies. The state-run news media began publishing articles about the coming bull run and the creation of exchanges geared toward listing new companies.


As droves of investors jumped on board, the stock market boom began to head into bubble territory.


The nation’s two major exchanges, the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets, doubled and even tripled in 12 months. Early this year, the stock of a website that provides financial news and information rose more than 350 percent over two months. Stock valuations in China hit the roof; some companies were trading at 300 times trailing earnings.


“Things got crazy, it really became a feeding frenzy,” Mr. Chang said. “People were talking about new economy stocks.” In the ChiNext market in Shenzhen, some academics found the average price-to-earnings ratio was about 140, even higher than the Nasdaq bubble in the United States in 2000, he added.


The market started to soften a few months ago. Worried about excess speculation, the government started putting restrictions on the so-called leverage, or borrowing, used to buy stocks. In a May report, Credit Suisse analysts said that margin lending and other forms of borrowing to purchase shares amounted to more than $500 billion, increasing the market risk.

几个月前,市场开始走弱。政府担心投机过度,开始限制所谓的杠杆,即举债购买股票。在5月的一份报告中,瑞信(Credit Suisse)分析师写道,保证金贷款和用来购买股票的其他形式的借款,总金额超过了5000亿美元,这增加了市场风险。

Just a few weeks ago, analysts at several major banks started calling a top and urging caution among investors. After that, the government once again tightened restrictions on margin borrowing, helping to undermine confidence in the market.


Heavy selling led to more selling. Since May, China’s stock market — the second-largest in the world after the United States — has lost nearly $3 trillion in market value.


The Chinese government’s response to the market downturn has been swift. In late June, China’s Central Bank cut interest rates, a move meant to help make buying stocks more attractive than putting money in the bank. When stock prices continued to fall, the authorities called an emergency meeting last weekend in Beijing. The country suspended new stock listings, and 21 brokerage firms agreed to set up a $19 billion stabilization fund to help prop up the markets.


China is facing the stock market slump at a complicated time. The economy has weakened considerably, now that the country is growing at its slowest pace in more than a decade. Many local governments are heavily indebted.


With the stock market falling so swiftly, concerns have grown about social and political repercussions. The enormous amount of borrowing that helped lift share prices could turn into bad debt, hurting banks, brokerages and other financial institutions. And small investors could be devastated.


“Honestly, my confidence in regulators and the market is diminishing,” said Chen Minliang, a publishing house editor in Shanghai who has been playing the market for years. “But I still think the market itself has some rules and will likely rebound after reaching the floor.”


The most vulnerable in a sharp, prolonged stock downturn could be people like Mr. Gong, the retired shipyard worker. Most of his family’s assets are tied up in the stock market, with little in the bank.


Mr. Gong, who never attended college, made less than $150 a month in the shipyards. In the mid-1990s, he started playing the stocks, after realizing that his job as a state worker was not going to make him rich. He retired in 2005, and has since built up a $100,000 portfolio.


“I didn’t really have a good income,” he said. “But now, I’m doing better than some people I know who are just living on their pension.”


About three times a week, Mr. Gong visits one of his favorite brokerage houses to meet friends, swap tips and watch the markets gyrate. He was there on Monday, off a narrow street in the city’s riverfront district, in front of an enormous screen arrayed with stock prices, ticker symbols and trading volumes.