China's stock index on all-time high

By Fei Ya (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-30 08:59

China's stock market soared to an all-time high on the last trading day of 2006, as a flood of fresh investment funds boosted the benchmark index up 4.2 per cent and brought its total gain for the year to 127 per cent.

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The Shanghai Composite Index closed at 2,675.474 points on Friday with the second-biggest daily percentage rise this year. Turnover in Shanghai A shares totalled 58.75 billion yuan (US$7.5 billion), its second-highest level this year.

Experts attribute a number of factors to a bullish year that has marked the end of a four-year slump and launched China into the ranks of some of the best performing capital markets in the world. Factors cited include China's continued economic growth, the success of recent market reforms, and massive fund inflows from listings by some of China's flagship firms.

Though the index is not predicted to rise as spectacularly next year, the huge amount of new funds raised for investment in recent months - many of which have not yet entered the market - mean the bull run is unlikely to end soon, analysts said.

The news that the Chinese Government is expected to pass the unification of a corporate tax law in 2007 is among the favourable factors that triggered strong market sentiment in December, a month that has seen a 27 per cent growth.

"Banks will benefit the most from the new tax policy," said She Minhua, an analyst with the Beijing-based CITIC China Securities.

Bank shares such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Bank of China increased 65 per cent and 50 per cent in December.

Corporate profit growth, benefiting from the possible new tax policy and new accounting standards starting from 2007, is forecast to be around 25 per cent this year and roughly the same next year.

Meanwhile, the listing of several flagship companies is planned in early 2007, including China Life Insurance in January and Bank of Communications and Ping An Insurance in subsequent months. These offerings are expected to trigger investor interest.

China Merchants Bank Co, the nation's third-biggest publicly traded lender, rose 5.1 per cent to 16.36 yuan (US$2.1) on Friday, pushing the stock's advance to 170 per cent this year.

China Minsheng Banking Corp, the nation's first privately controlled lender, added 4 per cent to close at 10.20 yuan (US$1.3). Its shares have more than tripled this year.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, Asia's biggest oil refiner, also known as Sinopec, climbed 70 per cent since October 10, when its parent gave investors 2.8 shares for every 10 held as it converted its non-tradable shares.

Sinopec gained 1.1 per cent to 9.12 yuan (US$1.16) on Friday, extending its gain this year to 96 per cent.

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