25, 2007 – Last week, former Fed Chairman Greenspan warned of a "dramatic contrac-tion" in Chinese stocks but went on to say they thought the global economy on balance may be able to shrug off a drop in asset prices. His statement many argue, brought about the late week slump for the Dow. On the day he made the remarks, the dow hit an all time historic high of 13635, knee jerked higher the next day, posting a new high of 13653 but slumped into Friday. It was the first weekly loss for the Dow since March.
More specifically, Mr. Green-span said the recent boom in Chi-nese stocks could not last. "It is clearly unsustainable" and at some point, "there is going to be a dramatic contraction." It was no stretch to make such a statement. After all, the main Shanghai in-dex has nearly tripled in the past year and is up 56 percent in 2007. The market is trading at a fever pitch which usually indi-cates an important high is close at hand. More telling are the stories circulating about China being in the grip of a stock market fever. In January, when the Shanghai market was 56 percent lower than this week, a news wire reported, "there is no exact Chinese transla-tion for, "irrational exuberance" but no explanation seemed neces-sary in the bustling lobby of GF Securities:Grungy-looking col-lege students, office workers, retirees and even a pregnant woman in suede boots all jostled into the brokerage, eager to buy stocks and buy them now."
The article stated that there were 2.7 new investment ac-counts registered last year, more than triple the number from 2005. A senior analyst with a Shanghai bank that specializes in China's equity markets was quoted as saying,"we've gone from a historic low to a historic high in the space of a year. Obvi-ously, everyone is getting a bit scared about he scale of the ramp-up." Mr. Greenspan is also spooked it seems. History shows there are reasons to be worried when a market is caught in a fe-ver. In Japan for example, the Nikkei 225 Average which is similar to the Dow Jones or the S&P 500 Index enjoyed a multi year rally that began in earnest in the 1970's but accelerated sharply in the '80's. The Nikkei peaked in December 1989 at 38,915 and bottomed in April '03 at 7607, a post-war low. This week, it is approximately 17481. Mr. Green-span also recalls the stock market fever that gripped the U.S. Nasdaq a few years ago. At the end of October 1999, the Nasdaq stood at 2966 but on March 10, 2000, it set an all time high of 5048. In less than five months it broke thru 3000, 4000 and then the 5000 level. After peaking, the Nasdaq collapsed down to 1114, set on October 2002. From the high to the low, the Nasdaq lost 78 percent while the Nikkei lost 80 percent. Both markets are now doing well when compared to when they hit rock bottom. Com-pared to their all time highs, they are not doing all that well. That is the worry of Mr. Greenspan and the lesson history teaches. The lesson is this: when investing or trading, success all comes down to timing.
Those that bought into the Chinese stock market a few years ago are rejoicing. So are those that bought into the Nikkei, the Nasdaq, the Dow and a host of other stock markets within the past few years. Equity markets across the globe have performed smartly since 2002. That is also true for those the bought into commodities such as crude oil, corn, cattle, gold, copper and so on. The CRB index which is to the commodity markets as the Dow Jones is to the equities mar-kets closed this week at approxi-mately 406, within striking dis-tance of a new all time high of 415 set in February. In early 2002, the CRB was under 200. Commodities are doing just as well as stocks for five years run-ning.
Those with money invested in stocks or commodities do not want to hear from Mr. Greenspan or Chicken Little that, "the sky is falling." Paper and hard assets have been on a spectacular bull move for at least five years and no one wants the party to end. Unfortunately, history shows that at some point, all good things come to an end.
If the current bull run for stocks and commodities comes to a temporary end it will be as a result of two primary factors. One, the Chinese economy takes a hit because of stock market fe-ver. The other because the US Fed hikes rates to slow economic growth and fight inflation. China is now so important to the global economy if they sneeze, the rest of the world will catch a cold. If the Fed decides to hike rates about the same time, the sneezing may turn into a full fledged ill-ness from one end of the globe to the other.
(The information in this article is the opinion of Commodity In-sight's Jerry Welch and subject to change without notice.)