A pedestrian walks in front of an electronic stock board displaying the Hang Seng Index, left, and the Shanghai Composite Index outside a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)

China Shares Sink Most Since 2016 as 1,000 Stocks Fall by Limit

(Bloomberg) -- Even for the world’s worst-performing stock markets, Thursday’s losses were extreme.

China’s benchmark equity gauge closed 5.2 percent lower, the biggest loss since February 2016, as a global sell-off spread. More than 1,000 stocks fell by the daily limit, or more than one in four. The Shanghai Composite Index ended below 2,600, a level not even breached during market crashes in 2015 and 2016.

Hong Kong didn’t fare much better, with the Hang Seng Index dropping 3.5 percent , the biggest in eight months. Tencent Holdings Ltd., the most valuable stock listed in Asia, slid 6.8 percent to extend a record losing streak to a 10th day.

Chinese shares have been the ground zero for the trade war with the U.S. The Shanghai Composite has lost 24 percent in the past 12 months, one of the worst performers among 94 global gauges tracked by Bloomberg, with the majority of the decline happening this year. A slowing economy and weakening currency is only adding to the gloom.

"Panic? The general mood among fund managers is more like ‘playing dead,’" said He Qi, portfolio manager at Huatai Pinebridge Fund Management.

China Shares Sink Most Since 2016 as 1,000 Stocks Fall by Limit

Telecom and technology shares led declines on the mainland, with ZTE Corp. and 360 Security Technology Inc. tumbling more than 9 percent. Tech shares also dropped the most in Hong Kong, following the sector’s rout in New York.

Volume on the Hang Seng Index and China’s large-cap CSI 300 Index was about 70 percent more than their 30-day intraday average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Foreign investors dumped 3.6 billion yuan ($520 million) onshore shares through Hong Kong-China stock links.

"It’s been a rough day," said William Wong, head of institutional sales trading at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities HK Ltd. "Institutional investors have been reducing their portfolio, while we see hedge funds shorting in Hong Kong."

A crackdown at Chinese borders on undeclared goods also hurt luxury goods companies, with Prada SpA tumbling 10 percent, the most since September 2017. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. dropped as much as 33 percent on its trading debut.

"Negative sentiment is outweighing any positive catalysts, and investors would take any rebound as a chance to sell," said Louis Tse, Hong Kong-based managing director at VC Asset Management Ltd., adding that Shanghai shares may fall further after breaking the key support level. "If we’re talking about seeing an end of the tunnel -- I don’t think so."

Here’s a summary of some index moves:

  • Hang Seng Index closes at lowest since May 2017
  • Hang Seng China Enterprises Index drops 3.4%, the most since Feb. 9
  • Shenzhen Composite slumps 6.5% to lowest since September 2014
  • Taiwan’s Taiex tumbles 6.3%, worst loss since January 2008

And some stocks:

  • Tencent extends its record losing streak to a 10th day; AAC Technologies and Sunny Optical were among biggest decliners on the Hang Seng Index, both sliding more than 6.1%
  • BAIC tumbles a record 13% on concern Mercedez-Benz AG may raise its stake in the company, biggest loser on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index;
  • Country Garden Holdings among worst-performing property stocks, down 7.1%
  • PetroChina falls 3.9%, biggest loss in four months, while Cnooc slips 3.8%, most since September

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.