China’s credit bubble has finally popped. The property market is swinging wildly from boom to bust, the cautionary exhibit of a BRIC’s dream that is at last coming down to earth with a thud.
It is hard to obtain good data in China, but something is wrong when the country’s Homelink property website can report that new home prices in Beijing fell 35pc in November from the month before. If this is remotely true, the calibrated soft-landing intended by Chinese authorities has gone badly wrong and risks spinning out of control.
The growth of the M2 money supply slumped to 12.7pc in November, the lowest in 10 years. New lending fell 5pc on a month-to-month basis. The central bank has begun to reverse its tightening policy as inflation subsides, cutting the reserve requirement for lenders for the first time since 2008 to ease liquidity strains.
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The question is whether the People’s Bank can do any better than the US Federal Reserve or Bank of Japan at deflating a credit bubble.
Chinese stocks are flashing warning signs. The Shanghai index has fallen 30pc since May. It is off 60pc from its peak in 2008, almost as much in real terms as Wall Street from 1929 to 1933.
“Investors are massively underestimating the risk of a hard-landing in China, and indeed other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China)… a ‘Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept’ in my view,” said Albert Edwards at Societe Generale.