Stocks tumble 5.6% at tightening concerns

By Dong Zhixin (
Updated: 2008-04-14 16:59

A man reads information on an electronic screen at a brokerage house in Shanghai April 14, 2008. China's main stock index lost more than 5.6% Monday as investors cashed out of banking stocks amid worries over the country's persistently high inflation. [Agencies]

Chinese stocks suffered its biggest losses in more than two months on Monday, as monetary tightening concerns grew in face of the highest inflation in more than a decade.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 5.62 percent to 3,296.67 points, the biggest fall since it declined 7.19 percent on January 28. The gauge has lost more than 37 percent so far this year.

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Fears over another round of hikes in interest rates or bank reserve ratio were a key factor behind the decline, analysts said.

The Consumer Price Index, a barometer of inflation, is expected to rise 8.3 percent in March year on year, after surging a 12-year high of 8.7 percent in February, vice central bank governor Liu Shiyu said over the weekend at a forum in Shanghai.

Liu said the country still faces big inflation pressure, re-igniting worries that the central bank might take action soon to tackle the rising cost of living.

The March figure will be released this week, together with data on industrial output and fixed investment. Investors may choose to move to the sidelines when awaiting the figures.

Adding to the selling pressure was talks of new regulatory plans to tighten the rein on the purchase of houses for investment purposes, sparking a fresh wave of selling in real estate shares. Eighty percent of the housing shares fell more than 8 percent, with more than 20 dropping their 10 percent daily limit.

Buyers of non-first apartments have been required to pay a higher down payment and interest rates.

Other shares fared hardly better. Less than 100 stocks among the 1,500 ones in the Shanghai and Shenzhen markets posted gains.

Financial shares remained weak. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China fell 5.22 percent to 5.81 yuan per share, while China Life dropped 7.37 percent to 27.76 yuan.

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