* Traders say brokerages, mutual funds start to buy again
* Valuations of Chinese stocks in historical trough
* Reforms spark hopes of a future bull run similar to
* Monetary easing, stable economy a must for sustained
By Lu Jianxin and Pete Sweeney
SHANGHAI, June 13 A period of weakness in
Chinese stocks and the economy is luring domestic institutional
investors back into the equity market - the activity is small,
but follows classic economics of buying low ahead of a possible
turn as Beijing ramps up stimulus to shore up growth.
Traders say brokerages, mutual funds and major institutional
investors are quietly increasing their exposure to the stock
market, which has seen a shattering $1.4 trillion wiped out of
the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges since October 2007 peak.
The reports follow signs that offshore funds also began
quietly increasing their China exposure after Beijing signalled
it would begin allowing bond defaults, which some hoped would
push money into stocks.
The purchases do not necessarily mean the market has
bottomed out, particularly given the recent sharp slowdown in
the Chinese economy from its red-hot double-digit growth rates.
All the same, it does suggest a nascent recovery process may
be underway, with stock pickers betting on fat profits several
years out if the government follows through with its commitment
to stop meddling in the stock market and make companies more
accountable to shareholders.
In addition, there is the prospect of making quick profits
over the near term if the central bank loosens its tight grip on
the money supply to shore up the economy which slowed to
18-month lows in the first quarter.
Evidence is mounting that authorities are ramping up their
efforts to energise the economy, with fiscal spending shooting
up 24 percent on-year in May.
Index heavyweights like property developers and banks have
been on the receiving end of a lot of bad news recently.
Paradoxically, that is seen as a good time to buy low by some,
especially to catch a rebound spurred by possible monetary
"Evidence is clear that long-term investors have begun
building fresh positions; over time, the market may not be as
weak as we have seen over the past several years," said Chen
Huiqin, senior analyst at Huatai Securities in Nanjing.
"However, a bull run isn't on the horizon yet."
SCARRED FOR LIFE
The average Chinese investor remains on the sidelines, in no
small part because they have seen more than $1.4 trillion of
value, equivalent to 16 percent of China's gross domestic
product in 2013, erased from the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges
since the SSEC's historical peak of 6,124 points in October
That has brought the average price/earnings ratio of around
2,500 Chinese listed firms to less than 10 times historic
earnings, from more than 70 times in 2007, exchange data show.
"If you're a long-term investor and plan to keep shares on
hand for two or three years, it makes sense for you to build
positions gradually now because of reasonable valuations," a
manager at a Chinese mutual fund said on condition of anonymity
because Chinese rules bar fund managers from talking to the
Citing record low valuations, Qiao Yongyuan, analyst at
Guotai Junan Securities in Shanghai, forecast that the market
could rise by as much as 20 percent by the end of 2014.
However, short-term surges based on monetary easing
expectations have occurred in the past, without gaining
That leaves reform as the major remaining inducement. The
previous market bull run from 2005 to 2007, during which the
index rose six-fold, was propelled by government reforms.
But so far this time the suggestion of reforms in the
pipeline has not inspired China's retail investors -- who
dominate the domestic market -- to jump back in. The CSI300
Index which tracks the largest listed firms in
Shanghai and Shenzhen, is down 12.5 percent so far in 2014.
Many of the reforms, while positive, have been incremental
In fact, some policy changes have chilled investor demand.
The refining of rules for initial public offerings and the
unfreezing of the IPO pipeline this year has depressed the
market, because retail investors worry that more IPOs will
simply dilute net valuations if more money doesn't flow into
stocks as a class.
At the same time, despite committing to reducing its role in
the market, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC)
has kept a firm hand on the wheel.
Indeed, many investment strategies still hinge on government
monetary intervention, rather than underlying market-driven
demand for shares.
"China's stock market is still very much liquidity-driven,
so unless liquidity conditions improve significantly with a bank
reserve requirement ratio cut, an uptrend can't easily be
established," said the fund manager at the mutual fund.
($1 = 6.25 Yuan)
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)