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Experts: Little Risk of China Stock Turmoil Spreading

  • Jim Randle

While China’s recent stock market chaos has pushed down stock and commodity prices in other nations, the impact on the global economy may be limited. Some foreign experts worry, however, that strong Chinese government efforts to calm markets could set back needed economic reforms in that nation.

Chinese stock markets have fallen sharply, though they have recovered somewhat after government intervention that blocked some trades and encouraged others.

People with stock accounts in China, like He Meizhen, are worried. She has years of stock market experience, but now said she “feels nervous all over” and wondered “how can we stand it."

Lew weighs in

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said strong government control over markets can hamper the economy, but such control also means China will probably not export its problems to other nations.

“China’s markets are pretty much separated from world markets," he said. "They are obviously moving toward being more integrated, but right now, they are not."

Derek Scissors, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said there are fewer links between China’s stock market and its core economy than there are in other nations.

“Ninety million people have stock accounts [in China], which sounds like a lot until you remember that’s 1.3 billion that don’t have stock accounts," he said.

Rising stock prices make investors feel wealthy, sparking consumer spending and economic growth. Falling prices cut this growth. But in China this “wealth effect” is limited by the small proportion of the population that holds stocks.

Speaking via Skype, PNC Bank Senior International Economist Bill Adams said there is a “limited” correlation between stocks and growth in China. He added that growth is slowing but remains strong.

“We are still expecting real GDP growth of between 6 and a 7.5 percent in 2015," he said.

Consumer shift

Economists say China is changing slowly from a heavily centralized industrial economy to a more market- and consumer-oriented one.

Lew worries that market turmoil could derail reforms that could help growth. He said those reforms “will lead to slower but hopefully a sustainable level of growth, which will also improve the economic conditions for Chinese people and be a boost to the global economy."

Lew said it is critical for Beijing to respond to stock turmoil in ways that make the economy more market-oriented. But Scissors said right now, China is headed in the other direction.

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