“China inflates bubble in obscure asset class” is the new “dog bites man”

The country that gave us bubbles in equitiesjadepaintingsshares in paintingstable saltfermented teafake French wine19th-century stamps and silver is now inflating a bubble in – hold your nose – dead-caterpillar fungus.

The price of a pound of the fungus (which grows in the brain of infected caterpillars and is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties) has doubled in two years, and exchanges have been opened to trade these new “investment products”, but it’s not a bubble, no sir:

“On a micro level, speculation has appeared,” says Long Xingchao, president of the information center of the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The association says prices of traditional medicines, including red ginseng and false starwort, have surged since 2010, partly because of speculators. Mr. Long insists, however, that a price bubble isn’t forming. “There’s nothing to pop,” he says.

Read on, and set your faces to “stunned”:

Newfangled exchanges are sprouting across China to take advantage of the excitement. Nanjing Pharmaceutical Co. set up an exchange last year for trading traditional medicines such as deer antler. In November it extended hours so investors could trade when they get home from work. “Expanding the hours gives investors more time to make a profit,” the exchange said on its website.

I predict this exchange will do about as well as every other exotic-asset exchange in China. (Wasn’t the November rule change – previously covered on JRE – supposed to shut down operations like this? Or have they sprung up again, State Council rulings be damned?)

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