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China's timeless mom-and-pop investors 'endure' as stocks gyrate
From:Shine  |  2018-02-07 18:29

Much of China's stock trading is conducted remotely via high-tech systems in banks and brokerages or on mobile phones, but the country's masses of mom-and-pop investors still cling to older ways.

In scenes that recall an earlier era, pensioners have gathered as usual this week in the countless public trading rooms at Chinese brokerages, frowning at electronic price boards and chattering tensely as markets tumbled.

"It has dropped so much and I lost 70,000 yuan (US$11,000) just yesterday," a 63-year-old woman surnamed Xu said at a branch of Hongta Securities in Shanghai.

Concern was etched on Xu's face as the city's main index fell another 1.82 percent, following a 3.35-percent drop on Tuesday -- dragged down by panic on global markets.

"We were heartbroken yesterday. Our hearts can't stand this," said Xu, who retired from her job at a cement factory two decades ago.

Elderly retirees here still throng trading rooms with riches in their eyes, exclaiming loudly when their favourite stocks tank.

Xu likes the opportunity offered by large price swings -- preferring volatile tech stocks over blue chips like banks or oil giants.

"We don't like these blue chips, they never rise much. Your money is just sitting there doing nothing," she said.

"I have to come. My heart won't calm down if I sit at home."


Investors monitor stock prices on computer screens at a brokerage house in Shanghai on February 7, 2018.

China's silver-haired investors are said to account for the lion's share of stock turnover, often at brokerages like Hongta where prices flash in green or red on big black screens.

While many younger investors trade via mobile phone, at traditional brokerages elderly punters punch in their orders on boxy 1980s-style computer terminals.

Sitting in the rows of plastic chairs and watching the prices flicker is a daily ritual for people like 65-year-old Tang Shunfu.

Tang lost around 250,000 yuan over the past three months as markets whipsawed. His family eventually demanded that he pull out, which he did last week.

To keep calm amid the chaos, Tang -- an amateur calligraphist -- would obsessively write the Chinese character for "endure," which combines the symbols for "knife" and "heart."

The stress also made him quit drinking and has soured his mood. But he still comes regularly to keep an eye on prices.

"I need to come and keep an eye on it. I’m not beaten. I want to make my money back," Tang said animatedly.