"Chinese stocks are cheap because the market has spotted some serious underlying problems. Here’s one: as revenues soar, profit margins are falling (see chart). Sales rose by a staggering 42% year-on-year in the first half of 2010. That was partly because the first half of 2009 was dreadful, but sales will still rise by an impressive 23% in the second half of 2010, predicts Macquarie Securities, a broker. Yet margins have been on a protracted slide that shows no sign of stabilising, says Michael Kurtz, Macquarie’s Asia strategist. Normally they rise by 1.5% in the first half of the year because of seasonal factors, but that did not happen in 2010.."
The government wants to allow ordinary people to enjoy more of the fruits of growth. Happy citizens are less likely to riot or demand the right to vote, it assumes. How far it will go remains to be seen, however. Will it allow the (artificially low) interest rates that banks pay depositors to rise? That would reduce the transfer of wealth from savers to well-connected corporations, which enjoy cheap credit. Will it allow the yuan to appreciate, thus walloping exporters but boosting consumers’ spending power? As usual in China, no one knows