Yesterday, March 15, I was thinking that I wished I didn’t own any China stocks at all.
Today, March 16, I wished I owned more. Lot’s more.
First, China’s top financial policy group vowed to ensure stability in capital markets, support overseas stock listings, resolve risks around property developers, and complete the crackdown on Big Tech “as soon as possible.” Then, Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, followed up by saying that the central bank would help implement those policies.
And that’s all it took to reverse what has been a brutal 2022 for Chinese stocks. By the time trading ended just after 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday, the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index was up 12.5% in its best session since October 2008. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. surged 27%, while JD.com Inc. jumped 36%. Property stocks rallied the most in more than a decade.
Today, trading in Chinese stocks in New York built on that “modest” rally. The iShares China Large Cap ETF (FXI) closed up 21.24%. Tencent Holdings (tCEHY) gained 33.43%. (I hold both that ETF and that ADR in my online portfolios.) Alibaba (BABA) finished head 37.76%. JD.Con (JD) ended the day higher by 39.36%. Meituan (MPNGF) was up 40.51% And Didi Global (DIDI), the embattled Uber of China, gained 41.76%.
Two reasons for investors to believe in significant government action–despite the extreme lack of details.
First, global confidence in China’s financial markets has taken a hit from the plunge in Chinese shares, the disaster that is the Chinese property development sector, and record levels of new debt hitting the books at already deeply indebted local governments. This isn’t a time–global events considering–when China wants investors to think the country’s financial markets might be shaky.
Second, in its latest set of annul targets, China’s government has promised to stabilize the economy and increase economic growth. Not possible if China’s stock market continues to fall. Before the rally Chinese shares had tumbled to levels last seen in 2008 during the global financial crisis. The Hang Seng China Index had been down 24% this month through Tuesday. And even after Wednesday’s surge, the index is down about 40% in the past year. Chinese stocks listed on U.S.markets have lost 75% from their 2021 peak.
And the chaos has clearly spread to the currency markets. On Monday, selling momentum in the offshore yuan reached an intensity only seen a handful of times in the past five years. The yuan suffered the biggest real-money net outflows among all global emerging-market currencies last week, according to Citigroup.
Tomorrow’s market direction dep