The market has never been more terrified of China

The world has never been more afraid that China’s economy will have a hard landing.

Societe Generale tracks the number of news articles discussing disaster in Beijing, and over the last four weeks they have reached an all-time high.

“At first glance, the strong increase in the number of hard landing news articles could simply be viewed as a sign that the Chinese outlook is deteriorating rapidly,” said Societe Generale strategists Arthur van Slooten and Alain Bokobza in a note.

“If that is the case, the indicator would be a precursor to rather dramatic changes in economic consensus that we have not seen so far.”

It’s not hard to understand why so many people around the world might be fearing a hard landing: China’s transition from an investment based economy to one based on domestic consumption — what the government has called “the new normal” — has been brutal.

Growth in the old drivers of the economy, likes manufacturing and real estate, have slowed faster than expected. Exports plummeted almost 9% in July and employment is stagnating. This prompted the government to devalue the yuan slightly last month.

On top of that, China’s two main stock markets — Shanghai and Shenzen — started crashing back in June after experiencing an almost 150% rally over the last year and a half. As it stands now, both have also give back almost all their gains for 2015.

The Societe Generale note said: “The unprecedented stream of articles related to a Chinese hard landing has fuelled collective (and apparently not so latent) fears.

“So even without the chart in hand, but just by reading the press, one can be excused for thinking that a China hard landing is imminent. In this context, it is hardly surprising that the general risk appetite has strongly diminished.”

“It’s kind of bad when they’re an $US10 trillion to $US11 trillion economy on a learning curve and they influence a third of the world’s economies.”

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