Stocks dive on fear of further tightening

Mainland shares fall 2.97 per cent as continuing measures to cool property prices are expected to take toll on major industries' profit growth

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 5:13am

Mainland stocks posted their biggest single-day loss in nearly 15 months yesterday as skittish investors were battered by worries of further government tightening measures in the property sector.

The sharp fall damped bullish investors' hopes for a strong rally this year despite optimistic forecasts for economic and corporate fundamentals.

The Shanghai Composite Index dived 71.23 points, or 2.97 per cent, to 2,325.95, the largest one-day drop in percentage terms since November 30, 2011.

The State Council reiterated on Wednesday that Beijing would continue to take a tough stance on the hot property market, sparking fears fresh measures could hit growth in the business of banks, developers and makers of construction materials.

Yesterday's decline could lead to a new round of panic selling by speculators guided by technical analysis, which follows price behaviour rather than valuation.

Shenyin Wanguo Securities analyst Wei Daoke predicted the benchmark Shanghai indicator would likely fall to the 2,200-point level before finding technical support.

Between the end of November, after the China Securities Regulatory Commission temporarily halted new share offerings to avoid a drain on liquidity, and February 8, the last trading day before a weeklong suspension for the Lunar New Year holiday, the key gauge jumped about 24 per cent as investors took their cues from rosy economic data.

The rally heightened expectations for a bull run on the A-share market this year after three years of lacklustre performance.

Investors took it for granted that the coming top government reshuffle in March during the National People's Congress would result in a package of policy incentives as the new state leaders sought to sustain rapid growth in the mainland economy.

"The market had already recorded handsome gains since December. It was actually vulnerable to any bad news," Lombarda China Fund Management said in a report. "Those stocks that had jumped recently saw heavy profit-taking."

Brokers said the market was rife with speculation yesterday that Beijing would publish further details of cooling measures to curb a property-buying spree.

The State Council said it would extend a trial property tax from Shanghai and Chongqing to other cities nationwide. It also mentioned that efforts to curb mortgage lending would be rolled out, without elaborating.

A gauge of property developers on the A-share market lost 2.1 per cent yesterday.

However, on the Hong Kong stock exchange, mainland property developers rose on investors' relief that the State Council statement contained no new tightening measures such as a rumoured increase in the down payment for second homes to 70 per cent.

The Hang Seng Index fell 1.72 per cent to 22,906.67 points.