I mentioned PetroChina in the very first blog entry, when the stock was trading at $155 in New York. It seemed to me to typify the new mood of confidence that I was finding as I travelled in Asia on the 10th anniversary of the Asian financial crisis. Little did I think that just 3 months later, it would be trading at $260.
This meteoric rise in the Chinese stock market has left me feeling more than a little uneasy, as to whether confidence has now turned into pure speculation. And this concern has been amplified by news this week that legendary investor Warren Buffett has sold his entire 11% holding in PetroChina, for a $3.5bn profit. Agreeing that, as usual, he sold ‘a little too soon’, he told Fox Business News yesterday that the sale was due to his concern over valuation.
Buffett clearly feels that the best of the China stock market run is behind us, at least for the moment. It will be interesting to see how much longer the present surge can last, and what the impact will be if (when?) it tumbles back to reality.
And in the meantime, it was also interesting to see that in the same interview Buffett denied that he had ever been interested in buying troubled investment bank, Bear Stearns. He added that he was still steering clear of the housing market and US housing stocks, as ‘prices still didn’t seem low enough’. As Buffett tends to buy and sell early, this is a salutary warning that there may well be more trouble ahead for this critical area of chemicals demand.