(Bloomberg) -- China’s sovereign wealth fund likely bought at least $43 billion of onshore exchange-traded funds in the first quarter, Bloomberg’s analysis shows, shedding light on the extent of state rescue to stem a market tailspin.  

Central Huijin Investment Ltd. is probably the entity that increased holdings of six major ETFs in the three months through March, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the latest filings. The first-quarter buying is more than six times the estimated $6.8 billion purchase by the National Team in the second half of 2023, when state funds were just beginning to prop up stocks. 

The large-scale buying gives investors a sense of how far the government is willing to go to rescue markets in times of panic. Chinese benchmarks were plunging to new lows earlier this year amid a dim economic outlook and policy uncertainties. The CSI 300 Index has rebounded about 10% since a February trough, partly aided by the state measures. 

Quarterly ETF filings — unlike annual ones — do not stipulate the disclosure of the 10 largest shareholders. Yet they are required to announce the changes in positions of investors that own more than 20% of the fund, allowing the identification of purchases by Central Huijin.

Huatai-Pinebridge CSI 300 ETF saw the biggest buying among the six funds in the first quarter, at 86 billion yuan, based on the lowest closing price during the period. An unnamed investor bumped up its holdings in the fund by 26.3 billion shares from 6.25 billion at the start of 2024. All stakeholders named in end-2023 filings had different amount of holdings, suggesting the changes highlighted by Bloomberg are from Central Huijin.

The total buying will likely be higher as ETF filings provide data only for investors that own more than 20% of the fund, or the 10 largest holders. 

That’s why the filings don’t offer a window into flows in the E Fund ChiNext ETF or a pair of funds tracking the small cap CSI 1000 Index, even though buying of those products has proven crucial in curbing panic selling in February. 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.