Veteran traders may have noticed some numbers appearing more often than others in the markets, and believe it or not, there’s scientific research that explains why.
In late 2012, economists from the US and Singapore found that firms traded with a 23% “lucky number premium” on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange within their first three years of listing.
That’s right: companies with listing codes containing the digit 6, 8 and 9 attracted almost a quarter more capital than those with the digit 4 which, in Mandarin and other dialects, sounds like the word for death.
And more companies than statistically expected had “lucky” three-digit listing codes on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (52.2% versus 51.4%), while listing codes that contained the dreaded number 4 accounted for only 6.7% of total companies – almost half of the expected 12.7%.
Chinese New Year is coming up this month, and with it, there’ll be red packets and a bit of casual gambling for some families looking to test their luck for the months ahead.
This may help you navigate numerical superstitions in the year of the horse:
Pronounced èr in Mandarin, the number 2 is considered auspicious because of the Chinese saying, '好事成双' (good things come in pairs).
The Cantonese pronounciation, ji, sounds like the word for 'easy', which is also a good thing, but some northern Chinese also take the word to mean 'stupid'.
The number 4 is pronounced sì in Mandarin, which sounds like the word for death. It's considered unlucky in Japan, Korea and Vietnam for similar reasons, so many Asian hotels skip levels containing the digit 4 entirely.
When catering to the superstitious, beware of how you combine 5 with other numbers. It's pronounced wǔ in Mandarin and ng in Cantonese, which is associated with 'not', so can be used to negate other auspicious (or inauspicious) connotations.
The number 6 sounds similar to the word for flow (liu) in Mandarin, implying that things will run smoothly, and the word for wealth (lok) in Cantonese.
Pronounced bā in Mandarin and baat in Cantonese, the number 8 is one of the most popular in Chinese culture because it's thought to sound similar to the word for 'prosper' (fā and faat respectively).
It's exceedingly common in phone numbers, number plates and price tags. The 2008 Beijing Olympics also notably opened at 8pm on 08/08/08.