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China vs India: Which stock market is better?

Vinod K Sharma | July 19, 2008

For all of 2006 and till October 2007, the Chinese stock markets were on a roll. From a paltry 1,220 in December 2005, the Shanghai Composite Index multiplied 4.27 times to 6,429 by October, registering one of the most rapid rises in stock markets across the globe.

During the same period, the Dow appreciated by just 32 per cent, the FTSE by 20 per cent, the Nikkei by 8.5 per cent, Hang Seng by 114 per cent and Sensex by 115 per cent.

China is a nation of high savers. Their savings rate is known to be 40 per cent. In those 22 months, the Chinese poured their savings into the stock markets as if there was no tomorrow.

Brokerage accounts  were opened at the rate of 2 lakh accounts per day. Even during the frenzy of the Reliance [Get Quote] Power issue, the NSDL opened under 4 lakh accounts in the entire month of December 2007.

During the scorching rise, the benchmark index fell for just three months. The longest running bull phase was for 10 months from August 2006 to May 2007. The best phase that the Indian markets have had in the history since 1990 was for nine months during the Harshad Mehta-led rally, from July 1991 to March 1992.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. Shanghai is the worst performing stock market of the world in CY 2008. It has just replaced Vietnam at the top of the ladder among the worst performers with a 48.97 per cent fall.

Vietnam with 47.16 per cent comes second and our Sensex with a 35.17 per cent slide takes third place at the victory podium. From its rally peak of 6,429, the Chinese index is down 55 per cent.

But the Indian bourses are much better in many ways. There are just 893 companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, compared to 4,909 companies listed on the BSE and more than 2,500 stocks traded every day.

Indian markets by comparison are much more advanced compared to their Chinese counterparts, which are still planning to introduce index futures trading. In India, we not only have index futures but also index options, stock futures and stock options apart from several sectoral indices.

Though we are ahead in terms of regulation and capital market reforms, China is huge in terms of overall size. Even after seeing a deflation of 58 per cent from the highs, their market cap is $2.58 trillion, compared to ours at $0.96 trillion.

At the peak, their market cap was $4.75 trillion and ours was $1.89 trillion. In terms of market cap to GDP ratio we are better placed at 0.97; the Chinese are at 0.67. At the peak, we were at 1.96 and the Chinese at 1.38.

While listed Chinese companies are smaller in number, they are huge by Indian standards. The IPO of the Industrial and Commercial bank of China, which came in October 2006, was a mammoth at $21 billion and the largest the world had ever seen. The largest we have had in India was Reliance Power, which raised just $2.9  billion.

China is a real giant when it comes to consumption of commodities. It consumes 34 per cent of the world's steel, 29 per cent of zinc, 28 per cent of aluminium and 25 per cent of copper. It also produces 36 per cent of the world's steel, 32 per cent of zinc and 30 per cent of aluminium.

As a result, if China catches cold, the world sneezes. Earlier this month, when China closed down a few smelters to improve the quality of air in and around Beijing ahead of the Olympics, aluminium prices raced to an all-time high.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is another area where China leads by a very wide margin. China has received $500 billion of FDI since 2000. India, by comparison, has got just $15.8 billion since 1991.

Till now, China was considered the world's workshop and India, the software lab. But the appreciation of the Renminbi by 21 per cent since October last has suddenly made Indian capital goods competitive. There was never an issue of quality with India. India could soon attract FDI in the sector. Hopefully, things will change for the better for India as the Dragon breathes a little easy.



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