A Far East Pair Trade

“Sell Chinese banks, buy Chinese commodities,” declares Chris Mayer, armed with your pair trade of the day.

“China’s banks are hiding more bad loans than the Appalachian Mountains hide moonshiners. Yet the stock prices seem to say Chinese banks are perfect. China’s banks make up 18% of the market of global banking stocks, but hold only 5% of the assets. Further, as a percentage of deposits, the market caps of Chinese banks are four times higher than Japan’s and 60% above the global average.

“As economic woes continue to linger, these outliers won’t likely hold up. Chinese bank stocks are for selling at today’s prices. ‘When these banks crack and come clean,’ says Chris Burn of Goshen Investments, ‘it will be one of the last phases of the [current] cycle.’

“On the other hand, there’s China’s massive urban migration. I can’t emphasize this enough. There is a migration of hundreds of millions of people from China’s rural areas to its budding cities. Just within the next 15 years, China will add some 60 new cities with between 1.5-5 million people. The U.S. doesn’t even have 10 cities today with a million people in them.

“The financial crisis will not undo this migration. It is bigger than that. It is a history-making event and the world will probably never see anything like it on this scale again. As China builds out these cities, it will consume great amounts of commodities — for roads, power systems, houses and more.

“Don’t let the nasty crater that was 2008 take you off the scent of commodities. China is still as big and voracious as ever in the commodity world. There is certainly a pause here, just as that old Chinese saying points out that every meal must end. But every ending also has a new beginning. China will be back for lunch, so to speak.”