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"When we try to guess where the euro zone’s politicians are heading, we have lots of information, and the trick is to figure out which parts are real and which are deliberate disinformation," one London-based macro trader explained to me. "When we try to guess what the Chinese are up to, we have much less information, and sometimes it feels like it’s all disinformation."

The Communist Party’s 18th Party Congress, which ended this week in Beijing after picking the country’s new leaders and replacing most members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s ruling body, provided plenty of fresh information but left many market participants struggling to make sense of it all. "When the entire leadership of the world’s second-largest economy changes, surely financial markets have to react," the trader mused. "The question is, react to what?"

How will Beijing’s leadership transition move markets, and what do we watch for clues?

Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang came out on top, as expected, and there were few surprises about the other five members appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s ruling body. But the politicking and jockeying for position isn’t over yet. "Now that the top seven are in place, we are going to see ripple effects and reshuffling down the line of all their competing and overlapping patron-client networks," one Beijing-based former diplomat e-mailed me.

The date of the party conference had been pushed back, not so much because of the scandal surrounding Politburo candidate Bo Xilai, whose wife murdered the hapless British citizen Neil Heywood, but rather because of deep disagreement over who would sit around the top table. In Beijing, even more than in Washington, personnel is policy.

Every major policy in China is up for review by Xi, Li and their new team. The Standing Committee meets weekly and makes all the important decisions — political, economic, military, social and cultural.

The transfer of power is staggered. The Politburo this week endorsed Xi as the new secretary of the party. The National People’s Congress is due to confirm him as president, replacing Hu Jintao, when it meets in March, as well as approving Li as replacement to Wen Jiabao as premier. Even when they are formally in office, it will take time for them to consolidate power, considering all the party elders looking over their shoulders (neither Hu nor his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, are going to disappear).