Cab Chat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am

Many taxi drivers have given up betting on the horses and turned to investing on the mainland stock market, says Ho Yuk-leung, 55

I don't think the central government's cutting of stamp duty on shares will help much with boosting the stock market, although lowering the rate by 0.2 per cent is a good gesture.

Mainland stock values have dropped by almost half since the beginning of the year. The slump in share prices has really worried Beijing and it definitely does not want the market to remain like a pool of dead water ahead of the Olympic Games.

This is already the second move by the mainland government to revive the market. Last time they announced tightening measures to prevent large-scale sales by speculators as the end of the no-sell period for certain shares approached. Now they are barring people from selling out stocks until they have found buyers. I think this is a more effective measure than the stamp-duty cut.

It is a step to encourage people to make transactions. But think about it; will people really buy a lot more shares just because stamp duty has become 0.2 per cent cheaper? I think it's more a symbolic move to create a bullish sentiment than anything else. You know, sentiment and news are considered important in the stock market.

The two measures are not market saviours, as some describe. But they have given me two chances to sell high and make some money.

Many Hong Kong people like investing in mainland shares because their prices fluctuate much more than local stock prices do. I am one of them.

I have been keeping myself abreast of stock-market movements over the past two years. You see this stock price machine here? I started having it next to my steering wheel about a year ago and it's really good. In the past I read market information on the internet at home, but then my son and daughter always wanted to surf on the Web so I got this machine.

With this little thing you get to know the latest buying and selling prices, P/E ratios, transaction volumes and dividend payments, even while you're driving. Then I can call the bank hotline if I want to buy or sell.

The system was not that good when I first used it. Calls were manually answered and there were so many people dialling that you had to wait for a long time. Once I wanted to sell HSBC when I saw the price reach my target. But by the time I could talk to the bank staffer it was too late and he just apologised because the price had fallen again.

Recently they introduced an automatic answering system and you only have to push buttons to buy and sell. They also charge a lower commission if you use this machine. You pay only 0.15 per cent in commission to make transactions over the phone. But if you go to the bank, like those housewives gathering in front of display boards, you need to pay 0.35 per cent for each transaction of more than HK$50,000, and 0.5 per cent for each transaction of less than HK$50,000.

Many taxi drivers have stopped betting on horses in the past two years because buying shares has become more popular and more shares have emerged at affordable prices. We used to talk about horse racing when we lunched together, but now it's all about market news.

Last year when IPOs were really heated, some of my fellow drivers even drove their taxis to banks to take piles of application documents and distribute them to other drivers. But now they don't bother to queue. There are now some really strong infrastructure stocks, like China Rail Cons and China Railway, and you're bound to earn so they don't mind paying a little fee to buy IPOs by phone.

My son is studying secondary six and he knows the market well, too. He's turning 18 and will be able to open his own transaction account soon. Two years ago he started buying stocks with lai see money that he got during Lunar New Year. He bought Jiangxi Copper and made some money from it. Oh yes, I owe him several thousand dollars - his investments are made under my name. My daughter studied business at university and graduated two years ago. But she's not that fond of investing.