Aug 6, 2008

Will China go bust after the Olympics?

I saw this good article on TheAge.com.au. It is always the question I had in my mind. Should we sell off the resource stocks after the Olympics?

HAVING just given the banks another drubbing, it can't be long before the market turns on resources stocks with a vengeance.

After all both are at the, er, coalface of the credit crisis.

Despite taking a direct hit, the banks are valiantly fighting back with a 9.5percent annual jump in their fees and charges.

But the bigger problem is that China is becoming more vulnerable.

Certainly if the experience of Sydney, Athens and the other Olympic cities is any guide, when the games are over it will have a huge hangover, apparently without any fun to earn it.

In all the twists and turns of the credit crisis, one surprise is how China gets away with a rickety banking system. If ever there were a banking collapse waiting to happen, outside the US that is, it would have to be China.

The other day the Bloomberg news wire reported one of the country's biggest banks, the Agricultural Bank of China, lifted its first-half profit by 39percent - adding, only as an afterthought, that 23percent of its loans weren't being paid.

For all the talk about the impact on China's exports of a US recession - which officially hasn't happened, by the way - the credit crisis is still the thing to watch out for. After all, the most globalised sector is the financial system.

So how has China escaped the credit crisis? Maybe it hasn't; it's just not as obvious because of the closed economy caused by a fixed exchange rate and having state-owned banks.

In fact there are already rumblings because the biggest banks invested in, of all things, sub-prime loans in the US.

The yuan is pegged to the US dollar, which keeps it so low that China's current account surplus is almost 8percent of gross domestic product. That's created a flood of money - making it hard for a bank to go broke despite its best, or rather worst, efforts - which has also been set loose in the world.

But it'll eventually stop the hurtling growth rate in its tracks.

Interest rates - while still too low - and petrol prices have risen, lending is slowing as banks are forced into loss-making investments in low-paying bonds, inflation is running at 7percent and labour costs are rising to the point where factories are closing as foreign investors move on.

Values on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, China's only legalised casino, have been slashed almost in half this year, partly on fears of a looming power shortage. And that's before the inevitable post-Olympic slump.

If the marauding hedge funds and money speculators can't see an opportunity there, then it can only be a matter of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment