Note from dshort: I've updated the charts to include today's 2.14% decline in the index.
Today all eyes are on the eurozone financial crisis, crashing commodities, and the potential drag on US markets. But what caught my eye was the Shanghai Composite, which logged its 5th consecutive daily decline and the 16th decline in the last 21 sessions.
My friend and occasional guest contributor Chris Kimble came up with the notion of an Eiffel Tower formation as an emblematic way to discuss asset bubbles, which was featured in a guest commentary from last summer. The behavior of the Shanghai index over a two-year period beginning in late 2006 is a classic example, as the first two charts illustrate.
With an arithmetic vertical axis, the tower fit is rather amazing.
But let's switch to a log scale vertical axis and shorten the timeframe to look at the numbers. We diminish the playful tower analogy, but we get a more accurate visual representation of the relative values of peaks and troughs in the price.
Where is this index headed in the near to intermediate term? The trend toward austerity in the European Union, China's biggest export market, will be a significant problem, likewise the financial stress of a deflating housing bubble. However, over the next few years, Chinese demographics should provide a bit of cushion.
In developed countries, the peak earning years are ages 45-54, with the 45-49 cohort as the peak spenders. Assuming China is moving toward a similar pattern (an assumption I make with caution), the earning-spending cohorts will grow significantly. Unless the housing bubble triggers a widespread retrenchment and a loss of consumer confidence, demographics, at least over the next 5-10 years, should work in China's favor, driven by home-grown consumption.
One thing is certain. We'll want to keep a close eye on the Shanghai Composite in the months ahead.