In China, you can now literally bet the house on the nation’s tumultuous stock market.
Under new rules announced Wednesday by the country’s securities regulator, real estate has become an acceptable form of collateral for Chinese margin traders, who borrow money from securities firms to amplify their wagers on equities. That means if share prices fall enough, individual investors who pledge their homes could be at risk of losing them to a broker.
“It does come across as relatively desperate,” said Wei Hou, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong. “Globally, illiquid assets such as real estate are not accepted as collateral as they are very hard to liquidate.”
“This is simply not practical,” said Chen Gang, the chief investment officer at Shanghai Heqi Tongyi Asset Management Co. He joked with colleagues that brokers would have to become experts in everything from property to antiques, given the range of assets that clients could potentially pledge.
“Brokers are not stupid,” said Hao Hong, a China strategist at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong. “I don’t think they would be willing to take this kind of collateral.”
The Shanghai Composite Index closed below the 4,000 level on Thursday for the first time since April, even after stock exchanges cut fees and the securities regulator rolled out its margin financing rule revisions more quickly than planned because of “market conditions.” Declines since June 12 have erased at least $2.4 trillion of value from Chinese shares, more than the entire market capitalization of France.