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Cornering the market

CHINA: They may not have the wealth or financial savvy of Warren Buffett, but you will be hard-pressed to find more passionate punters than the silver-haired stock-pickers at Shanghai's curbside investment forum.

culturetechnologyeconomics
By AFP

Sunday 27 May 2018, 11:00AM


Investors monitor stock price movements at a securities company in Shanghai. Photo: Johannes Eisele / AFP

Investors monitor stock price movements at a securities company in Shanghai. Photo: Johannes Eisele / AFP

For a quarter-century, the corner of Guangdong and Beihai roads in the heart of the huge Chinese city has been a hub of the rumours, speculation, and occasionally solid information upon which many of China’s millions of market-moving small investors trade.

“The Chinese stock market is going through a W-shape trajectory,” 58-year-old Chai Yongping said loudly amongst the crowd, warning of current volatility.

“But after October, the market will be robust and that will be the best time to make a fortune.”

The lively gaggle of pensioners materialises each Saturday and Sunday in China’s financial hub, where gambling – banned in Communist China – has been replaced by the country's see-saw stock markets.

The free-flowing conversations touch these days on expected topics like US-China trade frictions, China’s recent launch of oil-futures trading, and US Federal Reserve Bank policy, with some onlookers taking notes.

“You know the trade war is just a bargaining chip Trump is using to show his dissatisfaction with China’s launch of oil future,” Chai said, confidently asserting a view that few experts would echo.

Shanghai's present-day stock exchange was launched in 1990 and ordinary investors were allowed to invest soon after, but information was initially hard to come by.

Up sprang the amateur investment bazaar, in front of a handsome postmodern building constructed in 1950 as a community and cultural centre for the working class.

“At that time, when the internet was not around yet, this was the hub that helped investors get first-hand information before making decisions,” said Chai.

The dozens in attendance now spill across a narrow lane into a modern office building’s forecourt.

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As he has for more than 10 years, Shen Yuxi, 61, peddles a stock analysis software which he displays on an old computer screen perched on the sort of wheeled cart used by street-food hawkers.

The “Buffett Analysis System” singles out downtrodden Chinese shares now ripe for the picking. An image of the famed US investor’s kindly face is taped to the screen.

Curious investors checked share prices but no one seemed convinced enough to stump up his 5,800 yuan (B29,275) purchase price.

“Actually, business is not good now but I still come here as information is crucial to making investments,” said Shen, who manages his own portfolio.

Today, China is awash in real-time stock news, tips, and misinformation on social media, but the street-corner punters still gather, finding old habits hard to break.

“More people come here when the market is good,” said Chai.

Crowds shrink in tougher times, such as the 2015 market crash that wiped out the assets of millions of Chinese.

And overall, the streetside vestige of lower-tech times is slowly fading.

“It doesn’t compare to the throngs of the past,” Chai said.

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