Investors' minds set on economic data

SHANGHAI B shares closed mixed yesterday, with investors focusing on coming economic data, according to market traders.

Tim Greaton, who manages the China Growth Fund for Credit Lyonnais Asset Management, said China was to release inflation figures early next week.

There also are several listings planned for Shanghai, causing some investors to hold cash in anticipation that the new issues will be priced at earnings multiples well below the market average.

Shanghai China International Travel set the trend late last month when the travel agency issued shares at a pricing multiple of 8.3 times, against a market average closer to 15.

'It's a case of waiting for a sound investment in the primary market at a cheaper price,' Mr Greaton said.

Among active stocks, real estate developer Outer Gaoqiao rose 0.2 US cent to 76 cents with 601,000 shares changing hands.

Polyvinyl chloride and caustic soda producer Chlor Alkali fell 0.8 cent to 32.2 cents with 695,000 shares traded.

In early trading, the index plunged as much as eight per cent, extending Thursday's drop on continued speculation about senior leader Deng Xiaoping's failing health and the absence of good economic news.

Stocks then recovered on expectations among brokers that the government may soon announce a cut in stamp duty on stock transactions from 0.3 per cent to 0.2 per cent and that this year's quota of 5.5 billion yuan in new A share issues could be delayed until the second half of next year.

A deluge of new listings was a major cause of a slump in A shares earlier this year.

'I think the government will step in to stabilise the market,' said a floor trader with a foreign bank in Shanghai. 'Rumours this will happen were very popular in the morning.' China's securities authorities blame the market's volatility on short-term speculators.

'What we have now is excessive speculation,' said Gao Xiqing, general counsel and director of public offerings at the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

The Credit Lyonnais B-share index was virtually unchanged, gaining just 0.72 of a point to close at 863.12. The A-share index rose 164.06 points, or 4.76 per cent, to close at 3,607.2.