China’s stocks plunged the most since 2007 as government support measures failed to allay investor concern that a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy is deepening. The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled as much as 9 percent before trading 7.2 percent lower at 3,255.84 as of 2:02 p.m. local time. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 5.8 percent. Futures on the CSI 300 Index declined 9.5 percent.
Worsening economic data and signs of capital outflows are undermining unprecedented government attempts to shore up the country’s $6 trillion stock market. While China said over the weekend it will allow pension funds to buy shares for the first time, a speculated cut in bank reserve ratios failed to materialize.
“This is a real disaster and it seems nothing can stop it,” Chen Gang, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Heqitongyi Asset Management Co. “If we don’t cut holdings ourselves, the fund faces risk of forced closure. Many newly started private funds suffered that recently. I hope we can survive.”
More than 750 stocks fell by the daily 10 percent limit on the Shanghai Composite, including China Shenhua Energy Co. and China Shipbuilding Industry Co. The gauge has tumbled 37 percent from its June 12 peak to wipe out more than $4 trillion of value.
The Hang Seng Index sank 4.7 percent in Hong Kong. The gauge’s relative strength index declined to 15, the lowest since the aftermath of the October 1987 stock market crash. A level below 30 signals to some traders losses are overdone. Taiwan’s Taiex index slid as much as 7.5 percent.
Economic growth slowed to 6.6 percent in July, according to Bloomberg’s monthly GDP tracker. China’s first major economic indicator for August signaled a further deterioration as a private manufacturing index fell to the lowest level in six years.
“China’s economy is pretty ugly and some sectors have bubbles,” said Wu Kan, a Shanghai-based fund manager at JK Life Insurance Co., who’s keeping his holdings unchanged. “Selling pressure around global markets is also weighing on local sentiment. The Shanghai Composite may fall to around the 3,000-point level.”
Stocks on mainland bourses traded at a median 61 times reported earnings on Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most among the 10 largest markets and more than three times the 19 multiple for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Yuan positions at the central bank and financial institutions fell by the most on record last month, a sign capital outflows have picked up. Chinese equity funds were the biggest contributors to more than $4 billion of outflows in Asia excluding Japan in the week to Aug. 19, EPFR Global said. Margin traders reduced holdings of shares purchased with borrowed money for a fourth day on Aug. 21.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the second largest, headed for its biggest loss since Jan. 19 with a 5.7 percent slump. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. slid 7.2 percent. PetroChina Co., long considered a favorite holding of state-linked rescue funds, climbed 1.9 percent to erase a 10 percent loss.
The State Council, or cabinet, on Sunday announced it will allow pension funds to invest as much as 30 percent of their total net assets in stocks. Pension funds had net assets of 3.5 trillion yuan ($547 billion) by the end of 2014, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The move is the latest attempt by the government to support the equity market, after arming a state agency with more than $400 billion, banning selling by major shareholders and telling state-owned companies to buy stocks.
“The news on pension funds over the weekend was positive, but not having the expected required-reserve ratio cut or any other larger measure seems to have disappointed investors,” said Gerry Alfonso, a Shanghai-based trader at Shenwan Hongyuan Group Co. “But it is questionable whether even with one the market would have rebounded.”