I’ve been in search of lighter material to incorporate into a timely blog post. The stock market’s worst month in three years could not go unmentioned. But I had little interest regurgitating the stream of troubling news that precipitated the decline. Instead, against understandably long odds, I wanted to find a story that offered at least equal parts relevancy and levity. With all due respect – and in this case, sympathy – to those involved, I believe I found a suitable nugget from the country blamed for triggering a rapid 10% haircut in U.S. stock market valuations.
The story begins in earnest this past June when it was reported that farmers in China had said the heck with tending to their crops. Abandoning one’s livelihood can only be justifiable when a sure bet for earning more money is presented as an alternative.
In this case the alternative was the Chinese stock market, a one-way train to magnificent riches. Everyone climbed aboard. And you know what happened next.
Nevermind for a moment the untimely release of economic data that suggested the engine of the world’s economic growth was sputtering. Nevermind the host of technical maneuvers the government employed to try and halt the stock market’s route. And please dismiss the instantaneous loss of investor confidence when the government’s intervention proved unsuccessful.
Instead, focus if you will on the August 25th detainment of Wang Xiaolu, a Chinese journalist whose government had the audacity to parade in front of state-run television so he could offer an apology for inciting investor panic. His crime was apparently publishing an article suggesting his government may not be less inclined to manipulate stock prices higher in the future. Readers know I’ve used this blog to share a message similar to that of Mr. Xiaolu for the better part of the last few years. Thanks to the 1st Amendment however, the thought of reprisal never crossed my mind.
Of course the notion that even the collective media is to blame for the bursting of a Chinese stock bubble is absurd. The forced confession and scapegoating reeks of utter desperation.
The uncomfortable reality is simply that global growth is slowing. Investors, drunk on the spoils provided by years of central bank intervention are genuinely perplexed as to how the Federal Reserve could even consider raising interest rates at this juncture and are now embracing risk aversion en masse. The stretched valuations of global markets simply don’t fare well in such an environment.
There should be no expectation of legitimate apologies now or at any point in the future. Governments and central bankers are portraying themselves as capable of orchestrating economies that perpetually avert recession and offer ever-profitable markets for investment. Don’t expect a mea culpa when that fallacy is revealed. Instead, for investors chasing manipulated asset prices, caveat emptor.