China's Market Maladies

The day-trading room at Huaxia Securities, one of mainland China's three biggest brokerage houses, is a place where Beijing residents gather to monitor the stock ticker and hunch over computer keyboards while they buy and sell shares of 1,378 listed Chinese companies. Like casinos, Huaxia supplies VIP rooms to high-stakes customers. After the central government's disclosure last week that China's surging economy registered unexpectedly rapid GDP growth of 9.5% in the fourth quarter of 2004, the VIP rooms should have been buzzing. But they were empty, while the atmosphere in the main room was morose and lethargic. A group of elderly...

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