A turning point for Chinese stocks?

The Chinese stock market has performed poorly so far this year, but last night's high close may signal a change.

An investor reads a newspaper with a magnifying glass in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Huaibei, Anhui province April 5, 2012. China shares jumped 1.7 percent the biggest single-day rise since early February, on Thursday.

China's stock markets bucked the global trend overnight and closed higher.  It's been one of the worst-performing places to be this year (up only 4% YTD and down 22% over the last 52 weeks for some context) and the implications of that continuing have hampered the industrial and materials-related stocks here in the US.

In the New York Times this morning, we're told that a sea change may be in the offing as China eases by reformation:

Chinese markets were buoyed by expectations that foreign investment would increase in line with a loosening of quotas that cap the amount of foreign capital that can flow into domestic stock and bond markets in mainland China.

The liberalization of the investment program, announced Tuesday, raised the quota for qualified foreign institutional investors from $30 billion to $80 billion — an amount that analysts said was not especially large, but nonetheless symbolically important, as it appeared to form part of Beijing’s gradual efforts to overhaul the country’s tightly controlled capital markets.

The “move is a sign of a push for greater capital account opening,” said Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist at Crédit Agricole in Hong Kong. “It is also a step towards attracting more foreign investment.” At the same time, many analysts expect Beijing to continue its drive to lift the economy with measures that some believe could include an interest rate cut later this month.

This does not make me bullish just yet on China, but I'll note that their stock market has grown fairly inexpensive in both absolute and relative terms.  I'll also note that economists there say an actual lending rate cut could be happening in the first two weeks of April before the release of China's official Q1 GDP report (April 13th).  Worth thinking about.

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