MSCI's decision to defer including Chinese shares in its emerging market benchmark share indexes for a second time may have trapped the index provider into making promises it can't keep, both to Beijing and to its investor constituents.
While both MSCI and Chinese state media spun the decision as a speed bump on the way to inevitable inclusion, which will allow and in some cases require foreign funds to buy into Chinese stocks, the agendas of Chinese bureaucrats and foreign institutional investors are much further apart than they seem.
"With this announcement (MSCI has) further hemmed themselves in, as they've outlined exactly what China needs to do. And if China satisfies them, they'll be within their rights to ask why MSCI hasn't lived up to its side of the bargain," said one source familiar with MSCI's strategy.
MSCI's clients want Beijing to open its capital accounts so they can reliably move their money in and out of China's markets, but the economy is facing its slowest growth in decades, which has led to capital flowing out of the country.