Here’s an early morning math quiz. Which number is larger: $350 billion? Or $3 trillion? The first is Greece’s total debt. The second is wealth that has evaporated from the Chinese stock market in the last month. The difference suggests we are paying too much attention to the wrong thing.
The Shanghai and Shenzen exchanges continued their rout Tuesday, despite heroic efforts to stop them. IPOs have been shut down, short-selling has been banned, more than 700 shares – about a quarter of the market – have been suspended from trading, and, oh yes, a government-backed fund is buying billions of dollars worth of stock.
The parallel here is not recent experience, but 1929. In the year before June 12, prices on the Shanghai exchange rose 150%, driven by a surge of new traders – 18 million brokerage accounts were created since the first of the year, more than in the previous four years combined – and a bulge of debt – margin credit roughly quintupled over the preceding year. Now the inevitable bubble is popping.
Should we care? Maybe not: the Chinese market is largely independent from the rest of the world. But as 1929 reminds, wild swings in markets can have severe economic and political consequences.
In the meantime, attacks on China are becoming increasingly heated in the U.S. political debate. Hillary Clinton joined yesterday, saying China is “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America – stealing commercial secrets, blueprints from defense contractors, stealing huge amounts of government information, all looking for advantage.”
For the Chinese government, rising economic insecurity on the inside combined with heated attacks from the outside make for a volatile mix. This one bears watching.
• Reddit CEO weighs in on criticism
Reddit CEO Ellen Pao admitted that management of the online community “screwed up” in the way it handled the dismissal of a staffer who handled the website’s popular Ask Me Anything interviews. Pao spent hours responding to comments and questions on the site. Her acceptance of blame may have been fueled by a user petition asking for Pao to be removed. Fortune
• More Chinese firms halting stocks
Almost 200 stocks halted trading after the close on Monday, bringing the total number of suspensions to 745, or 26% of listed firms on Chinese mainland exchanges, according to Bloomberg. Notably, the suspensions have locked up $1.4 trillion of shares, or 21% of China’s market capitalization, and are becoming very popular as equity prices tumble. Bloomberg
• Greek PM to present new proposals
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to unveil a new plan at a eurozone emergency summit that is expected to include a demand for Greece’s debt to be cut by up to 30%. Meanwhile, Greece’s banks stay closed on Tuesday and Wednesday as the European Central Bank is refusing to increase emergency lending. BBC News
• HSBC fires staff in video snafu
U.K. bank HSBC found itself caught up in a new controversy after staff posted a clip on the Web mimicking an Islamic State execution. The video is in particularly poor taste in light of the executions of hostages of some British aid workers by the terrorist organization. HSBC said it fired the people responsible and that it does not “tolerate inappropriate behaviour.” Fortune
• Banks resubmit bankruptcy plans
Federal banking regulators said the nation’s 12 largest banks have resubmitted plans for steering a bankruptcy that would not require a taxpayer bailout. Interestingly, this is the third time the banks have been forced to refile their plans. They are required to outline a strategy for a rapid and smooth bankruptcy as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. USA Today
Around the Water Cooler
• Nike wins the World Cup
With the 2015 Women’s World Cup final reaching the most American viewers for any soccer match in TV history, it is easy to describe the event as a victory for FIFA. But Nike, which sponsored the U.S. team, was the real winner by being the most mentioned brand on Twitter leading up to and during the game. Nike was more closely associated to the game than rival Adidas, which is the official apparel sponsor of the FIFA World Cup. Fortune
• Starbucks to raise prices
The coffee giant is increasing prices ranging from 5 to 20 cents, a move that will bring the price of a large coffee to $2.45 in most U.S. stores. The price hikes mostly affect hot drinks, which means that many customers who prefer iced coffees during the hot summer months likely won’t see the increase on their bills until the weather starts to cool. Prices are not being raised on any food items. Associated Press
• Robots are taking over China
China, the nation that scooped up many of the world’s manufacturing jobs, is now outsourcing that work to robots. Since 2013, the nation has topped the list as the world’s biggest market for robotic machinery. Sales for the machines surged 54% last year and next year, China is poised to have installed more robotic machines than any other country. What’s driving this trend? Higher labor costs are partly to blame. Fortune