It didn't happen exactly as I had predicted, but it has finally happened. And it means that the world's fastest-growing stocks are cheaper now than before.
Before I get to the whos, whys, and wheres, though, let me tell you whom we have to thank.
Here comes the cabal
Although owners of popularly shorted stocks such as Rosetta Stone
By making the case for stocks to fall, short-sellers make the market more efficient. Shorts temper excessive optimism and help us all avoid the protracted painful corrections that are its consequence.
Where shorts didn't tread
Optimism, however, had been the defining characteristic of Chinese markets until 2008. Chinese stocks gained 130% in 2006 and another 97% in 2007. As a result, money moved into these markets at a remarkable clip, and stories abounded about Chinese housewives, cabdrivers, and fishmongers speculating in the market.
Of course, there was nothing to stop them.
See, you couldn't short stocks in China. Without investors scouring the market for weaknesses, those same housewives, cabdrivers, and fishmongers had been treated to nothing but good news. That made them overconfident, overzealous, and then overexposed to an unquestionably richly valued basket of stocks.
It won't be that way for long ...
China's Security Regulatory Commission, fearing a stock market crash, was reluctant to stop them. That's why the country held off for so long on allowing investors to short stocks.
But after a 60% market plunge in 2008, the CSRC finally approved shorting at the end of September. To me, this indicates that the CSRC believed all optimism had been purged from the marketplace. When that happens, we've reached the point of maximum pessimism -- the precise time that master international investor Sir John Templeton would have told you to invest.
And you should consider that. Because though Chinese stocks have rebounded from their lows, many are still available for lower multiples than we had seen previously. For example, fast-growing companies such as Yongye International
Get ready to buy
That's why you should be licking your chops.
China's rapid economic growth will be the global economic story of the next 10 to 20 years. The opportunities are huge, and the country is growing richer by the day. In fact, our Motley Fool Global Gains international investing team recently returned from a research trip to China, where we met with executives at various companies and were generally impressed with how these folks ran their companies.
That does not mean we'd be willing to pay any price to own them, but today, we're looking hard at the Chinese stocks that are still cheap. To see what we're picking, click here to try Global Gains free for 30 days. There is no obligation to subscribe.
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This article was first published Aug. 20, 2007. It has been updated.