New year, same problems for China’s stock market as trading was suspended on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges after shares plunged 7% on the first day of trading, badly hitting the Middle Kingdom’s leading media companies. Wanda Cinema Line, China’s largest movie theater chain, finished trading down 10%, Huayi Brothers was down 7.5%, while production company Beijing Enlight Media, in which Jack Ma’s Alibaba has a $320 million stake, saw 9.8% of its value wiped out.
The Shanghai Composite Index fell to its lowest level in three months after negative Chinese marketing data sparked the drop. The tech-heavy Shenzhen Composite index was hit hardest by the adverse outlook, combined with concerns over the weakening Renminbi currency. A report released early Monday indicated factory activity in China had been contracting for 10 consecutive months.
An initial 15-minute break in trading, after shares fell 5%, failed to stem the losses, leading to the introduction for the first time of a new “circuit-breaker” system which saw trading close 90 minutes early to prevent further losses. The new measure was introduced in the wake of the last year’s Chinese stock market volatility that saw some indexes suffer their heaviest single day losses in close to a decade following general unease with China’s slowing economic growth.
Today’s sell-off had a knock-on effect on global markets, with London’s FTSE falling 2% on concerns over both China as well as the escalating tension in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran. China’s tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, all of whom are investing significantly in content generation and distribution, also took hits following the day’s events. Tencent Holdings fell 2.3% on the Hong Kong exchange, while the Alibaba Group ended the day 0.5% down.
While China’s stock market has been plagued by volatility for months now — last July the Shanghai Composite Index lost more than 8% of its value in a single day — box office continues to soar in the world’s most populous country. The Chinese government released official box office figures for the year last Thursday, showing a 48.7% hike from 2014 to over 44B yuan ($6.77B). That is the highest percentage increase since 2011, media authority SAPPRFT said. Industry execs believe China may overtake North America as the world’s biggest box office market in 2017.