An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China.
BEIJING — The recent short selling frenzy on Wall Street will not likely come to China, where there are many more market restrictions.
Short selling refers to a trading strategy that allows investors to bet that the price of a stock or security will fall.
To short a stock, investors borrow shares and sell them, then ideally buy them back at a lower price later, and pocket the profits made. If the share price does not drop, the short seller will try to minimize losses by buying back the stock, which now costs more.
Investors in mainland China have a limited ability to short stocks — a sign that the local markets are still immature. Tight regulation and online censorship in China also contribute to different investor behavior versus that of the U.S.
Since last month, millions of individual investors have piled into the WallStreetBets forum on Reddit, encouraging one another to bid up shares of stocks that hedge funds have shorted, or bet would fall in price.
A rush of trades through stock brokers like the free Robinhood app caused shares of heavily shorted stocks like GameStop, a video game retailer, to surge 400% in a week.
Shares of GameStop and others that were targeted by the Reddit community have since fallen drastically — but not before some funds betting against them lost billions of dollars.
Here’s why analysts say something similar won’t likely happen in China:
First, the concept of short selling is relatively new and limited in scope in the country, where authorities are on high alert for controlling risks.
Regulators only started to allow short selling about 10 years ago and it remains well below 1% of the total market value.
The process is essentially the same as the U.S. Traders profit by borrowing shares, selling them and then buying them back after prices drop.
But one difference in China is that regulators only allow investors to short a portion of stocks traded on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.
The list of stocks — roughly 1,600 or more of them — changes regularly and typically only includes companies with good fundamentals, according to Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance.
That contrasts with the short selling environment in the U.S., where dedicated funds typically pick companies like GameStop for perceived weaknesses in their businesses.
Limited ability to short Chinese stocks and caps of 10% or 20% on daily price moves gives speculators more incentive to pursue different money-making strategies, such as driving prices up before selling.
In the U.S., trading of individual stocks might be paused for excessive volatility, but prices can ultimately soar or plunge – like GameStop’s surge of more than 130% one day and a 44% plunge the next.
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