MSCI To China: Let Us In And We'll Let You In

Includes: MSCI
by: VanEck

Authored by James Duffy, Product Manager, VanEck Vectors ETFs

Chinese regulators have realized that mainland equity markets need to be more accommodating, transparent, and, in the case of Morgan Stanley Capital International (NYSE:MSCI), more open. Inclusion of China A-shares in MSCI's Emerging Markets Index, a benchmark with an estimated $1.5 trillion tracking it, may be pivotal in encouraging new investment in the country.

In 2014, MSCI first considered including China A-shares in its Emerging Market Index. At that time MSCI, in consultation with clients, opted not to include them, citing "remaining investability constraints linked to the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investment (QFII) and Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) quota systems".1

MSCI Collaborated with China to Foster Inclusion

In 2015, despite having made "substantial progress toward the opening of the Chinese equity market to institutional investors",2 MSCI felt there was additional liberalization that needed to take place. Once again, it chose not to include China. MSCI did, however, form a collaborative working group with the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) in the hopes of resolving the remaining issues.

Since the beginning of 2016, China has taken steps to meet MSCI's requirements for accessibility and transparency. In February, QFII quotas were increased from $1 billion to $5 billion and lock-up periods were shortened from one year to three months. This was followed more recently by rules restricting trading halts in stocks. Trading halts have been a major concern for MSCI and investors alike following the sharp selloff that began in the summer of 2015. Under the new rules, a stock can halt trading for up to three months for "major asset restructuring", and up to one month during "private placement".3

China Has Instituted Many Positive Changes

The changes made so far this year, along with the anticipated expansion of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program to include the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, have some investors speculating that this could be the year that China finally gets a spot in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. In a recent report, Goldman Sachs estimated that there was a 70% likelihood that MSCI would add China A-shares to its flagship benchmark.4 Any inclusion of A-shares would likely be phased in over time with an initial allocation expected to be around 5%.5

As China transitions from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy, being included in the premier emerging markets benchmark will likely be welcomed news to investors.


  1. 2014 MSCI Market Classification Review
  2. 2015 MSCI Market Classification Review
  3. Shanghai Stock Exchange
  4. Reuters Goldman Sachs raises odds of China share inclusion in MSCI indexes to 70 percent
  5. Reuters MSCI Consultation on China A-Share Index Inclusion Roadmap

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