Small investors suffer huge losses

A Chinese investor looking at an electronic screen showing market movements at a securities brokerage house in Beijing, China.
A Chinese investor looking at an electronic screen showing market movements at a securities brokerage house in Beijing, China. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING • Even as China stocks rebounded yesterday amid government efforts to halt a US$3.9 trillion (S$5.3 trillion) rout, the three-week long disruption has left in its wake a despondent mood among millions of small, retail investors who account for around 85 per cent of market trading.

"If this goes on, the whole country will go into chaos, the people will go into chaos," a 75-year-old pensioner who gave his name as Mr Lin told Reuters yesterday. He was among a crowd of small investors in a Shanghai brokerage watching glumly as stocks tumbled, knocking off more than 30 per cent of their value since mid-June.

The mayhem wiped out all but a third of Mr Lin's 230,000 yuan (S$50,000) stock trading account, pushing him to contemplate suicide, he told Reuters.

He was not alone. Ms Lin Jinxia, another small investor from Fujian province, saw her 200,000 yuan investment reduce to half since she got into the stock market in May.

"I've lost so much of the money that I've worked so hard for," the mother of one told the BBC on Tuesday. She and her husband had invested their earnings from selling buttons to a bustling garment industry.

"Now I'm having to save and cut down on my spending. We don't earn much, it was all money from our hard work," she said.

Millions of novice investors had piled into the market as the Shanghai index rose more than 150 per cent since last November.

Some made big profits but the slump has left many with losses which they now hope to reduce in a possible rebound, news.com.au reported.

"I hope I can bow out of the stock market after I break even," said Beijing schoolteacher Liu Yun earlier this week, after losing around 20,000 yuan in the market.

Not all were as optimistic.

"I just feel numb," said 70-year- old Ni Zhengfang, who said she lost about 15 per cent of her account.

The rout prompted Beijing to roll out a battery of emergency measures to calm sentiment, including an interest rate cut, suspension of initial public offerings, liquidity back-stop for brokerages to buy stocks and most recently, a ban on selling by large stakeholders.

Even the Asset Management Association of China issued a statement titled "Beautiful sunlight always comes after the rain", to infuse hope, research website soverignman.com reported.

"China is not about to become the next Greece. You are too pessimistic," one individual close to the leadership in Beijing told Reuters, referring to foreign media and detractors. "We still have many policy tools we can use."

Mainland stocks rebounded yesterday but investors remain nervous as stock prices have a long way to go to reclaim the trillions that have been wiped out during the sell-off.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Small investors suffer huge losses'. Print Edition | Subscribe