Hong Kong’s property market resilient enough to take on mild rate hikes
Hong Kong’s benchmark onemonth interbank rate (hibor) has surged in the past few days from below 0.2 percent a year ago to an average of 0.4 percent — a record six-month high.
Some analysts downplayed the significance of the rise, attributing it mainly to a temporar y mismatch of funds, forcing many banks to increase their borrowings of short-term funds in the market to cover their long-term exposures. They expect the situation to correct itself quickly, bringing down the benchmark rate to its previous low levels.
Others were less sanguine. They contended that the benchmark rate’s surge was a prelude to the onset of the interest-rate up c ycle that would be triggered by a widely expected US rate hike next month.
But, it’s hard for investors to predict whether the strong US economic performance in the 2016 third quarter, supported by an increase in consumer spending, can be sustained. Some economists expect the pace of growth in the fourth quarter to start slowing to about 2 percent from 3.2 percent in the previous quarter.
That would mean that interest-rate increases in 2017 will be moderate and slow. The market seems to agree. In Hong Kong, interest-rate sensitive stocks, particularly those in the property sector, have largely stabilized after the initial shock weeks ago. Banks, which stand to gain the most from higher interest rates, have not performed as well as expected, and the dividend stocks, mainly the utilities, are still in demand.
The benchmark indicator has been moving listlessly and within a narrow band in the past couple of weeks. The fall in average daily turnover shows that many investors have elected to stay on the sidelines while using derivatives, rather than selling stocks, to keep their gains from the recent rally.
Meanwhile, the property market, which is supposed to be rate sensitive, has remained exceptionally calm. The latest government measures to cool the homes market are reported to have helped depress apartment purchases for investment purposes. However, prices of properties in the primary and secondary markets have been firm, indicating that the market is not as highly geared as some economists had feared.
As such, it’s strong enough to absorb moderate increases in borrowing costs.
However, prices of properties in the primary and secondary markets have been firm, indicating that the market is not as highly geared as some economists had feared.”