Trading on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets ended at 1:28 p.m. local time Monday, the first trading day of 2016, after shares plunged 7%, triggering the new “circuit breaker” mechanism, reported state news agency Xinhua.
However, Bob Pisani, of CNBC-TV, who tracks the markets on a daily basis, thinks “the circuit breakers themselves may be part of the problem.
It was the first day the new circuit breakers went into effect and the first day in the history of China’s stock markets, that the markets closed early.
The mechanism follows the Hushen 300 Index, also known as the CSI300 Index, which reflects the performance of the 300 largest stocks on both the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges. When the index rises or falls by 5%, the circuit breaker imposes a 15-minute suspension in trading. If the Hushen 300 declines by more than 7%, trading is terminated for the day.
At 1:13 p.m., trading was suspended for 15 minutes and, immediately on reopening at 1:28 p.m., the index fell a further 2% and trading ceased. When trading closed, The Hushen 300 was down 262 points, or 7%, to 3,469. It was the index’s worst single-day performance since the depth of a summer stock market rout in late August.
Also on Monday, The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index tumbled 243 points, or 6.9% to 3,296 and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Composite Index plummeted 190 points, or 8.2% to 2,119.157. The ChiNext Price Index, which tracks small, growth companies, sank 223 points, or 8.2% to 2,491.
Most pundits think the market fell on a report saying the manufacturing sector contracted for the 10th consecutive month in December.
Caixin China Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 48.2 last month, from 48.6 in November.
The circuit breakers were instituted in the wake of the summer stock market rout as a way to curb volatility and give investors a chance to digest market-moving news.
Other commentators said the market’s decline was a response to a different move the government had made during the summer rout. This move halted the selling of certain stocks by insiders for six months. On Friday, the halt is expected to be lifted. So, traders were selling in anticipation of that.
“This was the first day the circuit breakers came into existence, and given the speed at which we went from down 5% to down 7% (about two minutes) the general worry that the market would close before the end of the day—which is what happened—may have been a very real factor. My bet is that the Chinese authorities will widen the bands. China’s stock market is far too volatile for a 5% halt,” Pisani said.
The Chinese circuit breakers are much tighter than the ones used in the US. If the S&P 500 index falls 7%, the market is halted for 15 minutes. and again when down 13% before 3:25 p.m. ET. A similar decline after 3:25 p.m. will not halt trading.
However, a 20% plunge will halt trading for the entire day, regardless of when it occurs.
Pisani said, ” My bet is that the Chinese will move closer toward the US system of halting for the day only if the market drops 20%.”