What China's young-uns think about stocks

Reported by Eunice Yoon, Written by Ansuya Harjani
Meet China's 17-year-old stock investor

China's dramatic stock market meltdown hasn't shaken the confidence of all of the country's retail investors.

For Beijing-based teen investor Jason Li, stomaching the wild market swings is all part of the game.

"Many people just blindly follow what others do. I don't find it very sensible," the 17-year-old student told CNBC.

Li began investing in the stock market in September, when he took $1,600 of squirreled birthday and holiday money and parked it in the Shanghai index, heeding the philosophy of famed U.S. fund manager Peter Lynch.

"Peter Lynch says he would buy stocks from watching what his wife buys at the supermarket. He links it to everyday life," he said. "My uncle bought stocks in a drone company because he loves drones. So I found a drone maker and invested."

Investors look at computer screens showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai.
Aly Song | Reuters

Li quadrupled his initial investments. However, the recent stock rout has knocked off a quarter of their value. The novice investor's losses, however, aren't keeping him away from the market.

"My advice is to do your research. After all, there are risks in the stock market," said Li, who was nicknamed Buffett by his high school buddies after the legendary U.S. investor.

The benchmark has tumbled 22 percent from its mid-June peak, though stability has returned to the market in the past week, helped by a series of emergency measures by the government to support share prices.

In the past month, Beijing has put a freeze on initial public offerings (IPOs), eased rules for insurers to invest in blue-chips stocks, raised margin requirements for short positions against small-cap stocks and warned against "irrational selling," among other initiatives.

While Li is just one of China's more than 90 million retail investors, his pragmatic mentality does not appear to be an exception.

"The younger generation has never seen a real market downturn. Many think every dip is a temporary correction and a buying opportunity," said Hao Hong, chief economist and managing director of research at Bank of Communications International.

The popular mentality is "I lost so much money during the downturn, I want to make it back," he added.

In the past week, investors have once again started talking to lenders about getting margin loans to buy into the stock market, Hong said.

But this is not a comforting sign, he said, "If we continue to pile into margin loans, there will be a worse crisis down the line."

To be sure, not all are convinced that first-time retail investors will be able to quickly put the recent episode behind them.

"Anecdotally, the biggest losers are the young people who jumped into the market in abundance, often using leverage. They've never experienced a bear market," said David Cui, chief China strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

"I think the psychological damage may last quite some time," he said.