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Kass: Bear With China

This column originally appeared on Real Money Pro on Sept. 5.

NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time writing about the weakening Chinese economy, a potential canary in the world's economic coal mine.

Last night, China's August Nonmanufacturing Index chimed in at a below-consensus 52.0 vs. the prior month's 53.1. This is the lowest print in several years and, importantly, suggests that third-quarter 2012 real GDP consensus forecasts (and China's official target) of 7.5% growth is unattainable.

It now appears that China's third-quarter real GDP growth might be 6.5% or lower.

Although the Chinese stock market is in bear market territory, to date, China's economic disappearing act has had little influence on the world's markets.

The rapidity of the decline in economic activity, however, is probably now at the tipping point for the world's non-Asian stock markets.

Looking forward, China's leadership change next month should be met with more monetary easing.

It might be too late.

As China Goes, so Goes the U.S.?

While China remains the growth driver of the world's economy, that region's economic engine is starting to falter.

The Chinese stock market has already entered into a bear mode.

Surprisingly, few have discussed how Chinese stocks are currently valued as an outgrowth of this Chinese bear market.

Let's enter this discussion now, for it provides a possible guidepost of the potential risks to U.S. stocks.

Though this observation is admittedly too simplistic -- I fully understand and have written why one should buy American over other areas of the world -- the current valuation metrics for Chinese companies are quite cheap, with forward P/E multiples of only 7.8, an average dividend yield 3.9% and with a lowly price-to-book of 1.3x.

By contrast, the S&P 500 trades at 14x earnings, has an average dividend yield of 1.9% and it's price-to-book value is 2.1x.

There is a lot of distance/daylight between the valuation of Chinese stocks and U.S. stocks.

My question is this: If China is indeed the growth driver of the world's economic community, doesn't this highlight how cheap stocks can get when growth is in question?

Doug Kass is the president of Seabreeze Partners Management Inc. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security.

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