The fast expansion of the mutual fund industry in China may reflect a taming of an investing community once summarily dismissed as gamblers.

Fresh figures underscore how last year conservative money managers and investors left money on the table.

A new report from Shanghai-based Z-Ben Advisors Ltd. says assets under management in the industry zoomed up nearly 38% to 2.68 trillion yuan in 2009, or about $392.56 billion. (See a summary of the report)

That would be a welcome increase most years. But the Shanghai Composite Index gained 80% in 2009 and an index widely tracked by mutual funds, the CSI-300, added nearly 96%–indications that the average mutual fund underperformed the broader market.

‘The asset management community was overly conservative,’ Peter Alexander, principal at Z-Ben, said in an interview.

Assets under management are nevertheless increasingly significant to the market, accounting for about 11% of the total $3.57 trillion market capitalization of the 1,786 stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen at the end of 2009. Mutual fund investors controlled even more of the market capitalization–perhaps a third–if only the shares that are publicly floated are counted.

Overall, however, mutual funds didn’t gain much in popularity last year. Z-Ben data show the number of mutual fund units–similar to shares in the funds–actually fell slightly between the ends of 2008 and 2009, suggesting growth in overall assets under management was due to the market rise, not new investor money.

Tracking how many investors trade stocks in China can be elusive. China’s investment community may be as many as 120 million, based on the number of trading accounts opened at the end of last year, a rise of 15% during the year. But that number likely double counts many investors.

Mr. Alexander says managers and investors, not surprisingly, were worried going into 2009 after the global crash of the previous year. That partly explains why money was initially funneled into bond and money market funds.

But he said even as many investors allocated increasing amounts of their money into equity funds during the year, mutual fund managers often kept large amounts of cash on hand. That meant many stock funds didn’t capture the market’s full-throttle performance.

Also, he said regulators, who approve fund launches, were particularly keen on seeing firms introduce passive investment funds, such as those that track indexes like the CSI 300. That is a key development, Mr. Alexander said, because when Beijing finally permits stock index futures (rumors about the timing have been swirling for years) the products are likely to track the CSI 300.

From Mr. Alexander’s perspective, the more money that goes into such funds that track that index, the faster Beijing may feel comfortable to introduce a derivative product that allows investors to actively bet against the index.

As for the mutual fund’s impact on local stocks during 2010, Mr. Alexander says his team is on the lookout for a ‘feed-on effect’ from a burst of money into equity funds right at the end of last year.

December was the year’s best month for fund raising, with new products pulling in 68.3 billion yuan, or a whopping $10 billion. Most of that money raised last month was destined for stock funds, a bullish indicator. Plus, said the analyst, the government may increasingly act to slow property price rises, a factor that in the past has helped stocks.

* CSI-300,
* James T. Areddy,
* mutual funds

James T. Areddy

去年中国基金业跑输大市

中国基金业的快速增长,所反映的或许是这一一度被认为是赌博性极强的投资群体,正变得规矩起来。

最新数据显示了去年行为保守的基金管理人和投资者的业绩。

上海咨奔商务咨询有限公司(Z-Ben Advisors Ltd.)新近发表的一份报告说,2009年基金业的资产管理规模增长近37%,达到人民币2.68万亿元,约合3,925.6亿美元。(见英文版报告摘要)

放在多数年份里,这个增长速度让人高兴。但2009年上证综指上涨80%,而被基金业普遍跟踪的沪深300指数上涨近96%,说明行业平均表现赶不上整个市场。

咨奔商务咨询负责人张磊德(Peter Alexander)在一次采访中说,资产管理界过于保守了。

但其资产管理规模在市场中的比重却是越来越高,2009年年底沪深两市1,786种上市股票3.57万亿美元的总市值中,基金业管理的资产约占11%。如果只算流通股,基金业投资者所掌握市值的份额可能会更大,或许会有三分之一。

但从整体上看,去年基金业的普及程度并没有出现多大增长。咨奔公司的数据显示,从2008年年底到2009年年底,基金业份额数量小幅下降,说明资产管理总规模的增长是因为资产价格上涨,而不是更多投资资金的进入。

中国的股票投资者数量或许难以有准确数字。根据去年年底的已开立交易账户数量,中国的投资群体最多可能有1.2亿,在这一年上升了15%。但这个数字可能重复计算了很多投资者。

张磊德说,2009年年初,由于在头一年经历了全球性的崩溃,基金经理和投资者心存担忧,这不足为奇。这可以在一定程度上解释,为什么起初资金都流进了债券和货币市场基金。

但他表示,在这一年中,就在很多投资者将越来越多的资金配置进股票型基金的时候,很多基金业经理常常存留了大量现金。这意味着很多股票型基金并没有抓住市场高歌猛进的机会。

另外他说,负责基金审批的监管机构特别希望各公司推出被动型投资基金,比如跟踪沪深300等指数的基金。张磊德说,这是一个重要情况,因为当中国政府最终放行股指期货的时候(关于推出股指期货时机的传言已经流传了很多年),这种基金的产品可能就会跟踪沪深300指数。

在张磊德看来,跟踪这一指数的基金吸引的资金越多,北京敢于推出股指期货、让投资者积极做空股指的时间可能也就越早。

至于基金业对2010年中国股市的影响,张磊德说,他的团队关注的是去年年底大量资金涌入股票型基金所产生的“喂养效应”(feed-on effect)。

去年12月募集的资金居全年之首,新产品吸引了人民币683亿元,合100亿美元之巨。上个月募集的多数资金都进入了股票型基金,这对股市来说是一个看涨指标。分析人士还表示,政府可能会采取越来越多的措施抑制房价的上涨,而这在过去对股市是有利的。

James T. Areddy

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