CHINA'S stock market is outperforming all its peers globally, fuelled by a relaxed monetary policy, an anticipated economic recovery and government assurance that stocks will keep climbing.
However, analysts warn of a repeat of the 2015 bubble that crashed a year later, with the government unable to do nothing but watch.
Stocks have jumped by 16 per cent so far in July and they are up by nearly 40 per cent from their low in March.
Individual investors as well as institutions have been flocking to the stock market. The amount of money borrowed from brokerages to buy stocks has exceeded 1.2 trillion yuan (S$238.4 billion), its highest since 2015 according to Bloomberg data.
There has also been interest by overseas investors in purchases through Hong Kong's stock links. All this signals a new stock market bubble could well be on the way.
Last Monday, a new fund managed by China Universal Asset Management closed its fundraising four days ahead of schedule due to investors' rush buying. Some of the best performers in Hong Kong and Shanghai are Chinese financial stocks, as they scramble to meet investor demand.
Since the beginning of last week, the market has officially entered a bull market. Last Monday, it closed 5.7 per cent up after an editorial in a state-backed newspaper assured the population that buying stocks was necessary to get the economy back on track - an implicit sign that the government was backing the rise.
"Cultivating a healthy bull market is important for creating new opportunities", read the China Securities Journal editorial.
Regulators in Beijing have been doing what it takes to boost investor confidence and support the market. It has recently loosened rules on margin financing and introduced a US-style registration-based system for new listings on its Star Market.
"The signal from the regulators is clear: They are pushing for the development of margin trading and short selling business in China," Ma Ting Ting, an analyst for Chinese securities firm Guosheng Securities, wrote in a note last week. "We expect regulators to continue to boost stock market activity and try to guide even more funding from banks and insurers into the stock market," he added.
China's stimulus so far has been focused on supply rather than demand. Recent economic data shows production has resumed but that consumers are still shying from shopping, travelling and eating out.
Beijing needs its consumers to start spending again to prop up GDP, and that comes with more money in their pockets.
"Higher stock prices will also make it easier for listed firms to raise cash at a time when some balance sheets will be under strain. A flurry of trading activity will provide a direct boost to GDP," said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist with Capital Economics. As such, some investment banks are expecting the bull to continue for a few more months as the current rally is still small in comparison to previous positive runs in 2006-2007 and 2015-2016.
Goldman Sachs expects another 15 per cent rise within the next three months, but analysts warn that the bull could end badly for millions of investors. They argue that just as in the 2015 bubble, the market is not in line with industrial profits. Between 2015 and 2016, the market soared more than 160 per cent in 15 months only to crash in a month and remain in limbo for years.
"Equity prices are rising far above levels implied by their historical relationship with earnings," said Thomas Gatley, an analyst with Gavekal Research, a research company. The prospects for year-on-year earnings growth cannot justify this exuberance."
Even the government is showing some anxiety. Late last week Chinese official media urged retail stock investors to be prudent, while regulators moved against illegal margin lending.