【英语中国】中国期货的投机狂潮 China futures gripped as speculators rush in

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2016-5-4 23:56

小艾摘要: At the beginning of the year western commodity traders knew China, the world’s biggest consumer of raw materials, would play a decisive role in the direction of markets. What they did not know was th ...
China futures gripped as speculators rush in
At the beginning of the year western commodity traders knew China, the world’s biggest consumer of raw materials, would play a decisive role in the direction of markets. What they did not know was that it would be Chinese investors as much as the country’s economic prospects driving prices.

In the past month a near-mania has gripped the country’s commodity futures markets, as an army of day traders and yield-hungry wealth managers have poured into the lightly regulated sector, often with astonishing results.

Daily trading volumes in some commodity futures contracts such as iron ore have been so large that sometimes they have exceeded China’s annual imports. Turnover in Shanghai steel futures one day last week eclipsed all

shares traded on China’s equity markets.

Alarmed by the surge in trading, which has parallels with the lead-up

to last year’s equity market meltdown, Chinese exchanges have moved quickly to increase transaction fees and margin requirements on futures contracts to try to cool some of the speculative fervour.

While this has removed some of the froth from prices, it is not clear whether this will deter the new band of investors, who have turned away from equity markets after draconian rules were imposed last year. At the same time Beijing wants to place China at the centre of global commodity markets and have prices determined and settled in renminbi.

All of this could have far-reaching consequences for the way raw materials are priced, and risks driving up the costs of commodities that are the building blocks of the global economy.

“This growth poses multiple dangers to global commodity pricing given how less regulated and therefore less protective the Chinese regimes are for investors who are perhaps the most speculative in the world,” analysts at Citi say in a report this week.

Western regulators have been wrestling with the problem of the financialisation of commodities for years, in some cases introducing position limits and curbs. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said speculation was responsible for the rapid move up in oil prices in late 2007-early 2008 when they reached $145 a barrel. China is just starting to grapple with these issues.

Western commodity traders were alerted to the power of Chinese investors when a group of hedge funds led by Shanghai Chaos launched a bear raid on copper early last year.

But this time the interest has gone mainstream, with wealth management and retail investors piling in on domestic bourses such as the Shanghai Futures Exchange.

The trigger for greater speculative interest in commodities can be traced back to the credit surge engineered by Chinese policymakers this year to prop up the economy and its currency.

This led to a pick-up in construction activity and stoked investor appetite for ways to bet on the Chinese economy.

“In our view, it’s simply commodity futures’ turn given upside elsewhere appears fairly limited while prices of many raw materials, before the latest rebound, had dropped by more than 70 per cent from their peak levels in 2011,” according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

There certainly appears to have been a marked rise in new participants in commodities and the scale and the magnitude of that surge suggests they are deploying capital in markets they’re unfamiliar with, says Scott Hobart, portfolio manager at HFZ, which trades commodities both in China and globally. “There is a clear thirst for short-term trading and short-term risk.”

Some of the capital is probably from groups of high-yielding wealth management products sold by Chinese banks, according to Logan Wright, director of China markets research at Rhodium Group in Hong Kong.

Third-party financial institutions that invest the money have been forced into speculative strategies to deliver targeted rates of return for the bank investors, he adds.

China’s domestic bond market has been hit by defaults by state-owned or partially state-owned companies in the past year — in a market where investors assumed for years that the government would never allow a default.

That has dimmed the appeal of investing in bonds. Equally Chinese equities have also fallen more than 30 per cent in the past year.

The impact of this speculative frenzy has not just been felt in financial markets. The rise in steel prices, up more than 50 per cent this year after six years of losses, has led mills in China to restart or increase production just as the world struggles with a glut of the metal.

The world may have to get used to pricing power shifting east and the increased volatility it will bring. China’s commodity exchanges are seeking to open up to foreign traders and an international oil futures contract is expected to be launched this year in Shanghai.

Additional reporting by Neil Hume and David Sheppard

在今年年初,西方大宗商品交易商知道,中国这个全球最大的原材料消费国,将在市场方向上扮演决定性角色。他们当时不知道的是,驱动价格的不仅是中国经济前景,还有中国投资者。

在过去一个月里,一种近乎疯狂的氛围笼罩了中国大宗商品期货市场。一群短线交易者和渴求收益的财富管理公司涌入这个监管较轻的市场,常常制造惊人的结果。

铁矿石等一些大宗商品期货的日交易额大幅飙升,有时甚至会超过中国年度进口额。上海钢铁期货在上周某一天的交易额超过了中国股市的总成交额。

此番交易飙升与去年股市暴跌前的情形如出一辙,令中国各大期货交易所警铃大作,它们迅速采取行动,提高期货合约的交易手续费和保证金标准,试图为投机热降温。

尽管这种做法消除了一些价格泡沫,但目前尚不清楚这是否会吓阻新的投资者群体进入,后者在去年推行严厉法规之后从股市转战而来。与此同时,中国政府希望让中国进入全球大宗商品市场的中心,并用人民币为大宗商品定价和结算。

所有这些可能对原材料定价方式产生深远影响,而且有可能推升作为全球经济基石的大宗商品的价格。

花旗(Citi)分析师在本周的一篇报告中表示:“鉴于中国期货市场监管要少得多,从而对可能是全球投机性最强的投资者的保护也要低得多,这种(交易量的)增加对全球大宗商品定价造成了多重风险。”

西方监管机构多年来一直在应对大宗商品的金融化问题,在某些情况下还出台了仓位限制措施。美联储(Fed)前主席艾伦?格林斯潘(Alan Greenspan)表示,2007年末至2008年初油价的快速上涨是投机造成的——当时油价达到了每桶145美元。中国只是刚开始应对这些问题。

当去年年初以上海混沌投资公司(Shanghai Chaos)为首的一群对冲基金做空铜的时候,西方大宗商品交易商对中国投资者的实力感到震惊。

但这次的投机兴趣来自主流领域,财富管理公司和散户投资者纷纷涌入上海期货交易所(Shanghai Futures Exchange)等国内交易所。

大宗商品投机兴趣上升的诱因,可以追溯至中国政策制定者今年为提振经济和人民币汇率而主导的信贷激增。

这导致建筑活动增长,并激发投资者设法押注中国经济的兴趣。

美银美林(Bank of America Merrill Lynch)的分析师表示:“就我们看来,这只是轮到大宗商品期货了,因为其他市场的上升空间看起来相当有限,同时与2011年的峰值水平相比,许多原材料的价格在最近这波反弹之前下跌了逾70%。”

HFZ的投资组合经理斯科特?霍巴特(Scott Hobart)表示,显然大宗商品的新参与者显著增加了,而交易量飙升的规模和范围表明,他们正在不熟悉的市场配置资本。“他们明显对短期交易和短期风险有急切的胃口”。HFZ在中国和全球开展大宗商品交易。

荣鼎咨询(Rhodium Group)驻香港的中国市场研究总监洛根?莱特(Logan Wright)表示,其中一些资本可能来自中国各银行销售的高收益理财产品。

他补充称,负责资金投资的第三方金融机构被迫采取投机策略,为这些银行渠道的投资者实现目标回报率。

在过去一年里,中国国内债券市场遭受国有企业或者国有参股企业违约的冲击——在中国债市,投资者多年来一直以为,中国政府将永远不会允许出现违约。

这削弱了债券投资的吸引力。同样中国股市也在过去一年下跌逾30%。

此次投机狂热的影响不仅仅体现在金融市场。经历了6年的下跌以后,钢价今年上涨了50%。钢价上涨促使中国的钢厂重启生产或者增加产量,而全球还在艰难应对钢铁过剩问题。

世界可能不得不适应定价权转向东方,以及由此导致的波动性加大。中国的大宗商品交易所正寻求向外国交易商开放,预计上海将在今年推出国际原油期货合约。

尼尔?休姆(Neil Hume)和戴维?谢泼德(David Sheppard)补充报道

译者/邹策

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