Trade Games

What does an official trade war between the US and China mean for Hong Kong and its property market?

Squarefoot - - CONTENTS 目錄 - 市場擔心倘若貿易戰規模擴大,將會減低企業投資及拓展業務的意欲,最終令經濟增長放緩。

中美貿易戰正式展開,對香港及其物業市場有甚麼影響呢?

Ever since Donald Trump's election in 2016, the rhetoric about trade imbalances with China and making America great by rekindling its home grown manufacturing sectors has grown louder and more threatening. The rhetoric finally became reality in July, when the United States and the PRC slapped new tariffs on each other's exports: 25% on 800 different Chinese goods, 500 American goods on the other side, totalling over US$60 billion. Throw in new tariffs on Canadian, Mexican and European Union steel and retaliatory taxes in those jurisdictions and it would appear prices will be rising everywhere, on everything, soon. But what does that mean for real estate?

Does it Count?

Admittedly, the vast majority of the taxable items in the first round—operative word being ‘first'—of Trump's Made in China attack are items such as “Hydraulic turbines and water wheels of a power not exceeding 1,000kw,” “Photosensitive semiconductor devices,” and “Flight data recorders” (according to the list published by CNN in July), but ultra-high tech industrial goods are routinely the first targets: the values involved are extremely high and taxing them heavily makes a point.

Even though the average Hong Kong family has no need for machine parts, a protracted trade war—which is quickly turning into a war of attrition, with Washington threatening to expand the list of taxable items—could be felt in the property sector here. At the mid point of 2018, retail sales value was up 13.4% over the same period in 2017 according to Colliers International, and JLL reported office leasing in Central spiked 109% in July, and Wan Chai and Causeway Bay rents rose to their highest in three years. Retail sales came from watches and jewellery, cosmetics, medicines and supermarket items. Office leasing was rooted in continued decentralisation, low vacancies and tight supply. Nonetheless, the rosy situation is a precarious one.

The issue is not what goods are being taxed, argues Denis Ma, head of research at JLL, “The issue lies in the potential escalation of the trade war from where it stands today. This could easily move beyond the simple trading of goods to putting caps on foreign investment and restrictions on business operations.”

一般香港家庭用不著機器部件,可是貿易戰持續,加上華府揚言擴大徵稅名單,對本地房地產有甚麼影響呢?據高力國際表示,2018年中期,零售消費較去年同期上升13.4%;仲量聯行報道7月份中環寫字樓租賃率劇增109%,灣仔及銅鑼灣的租金升至三年來新高。租戶主要為鐘錶珠寶商、化妝品店、藥房及超級市場。寫字樓租賃繼續受偏離傳統商業中心趨勢、低空置率及供應緊絀所影響。儘管如此,這些好景暗藏危機。

其實問題不在於甚麼貨物給徵稅,仲量聯行研究部主管馬安平表示:「按今天情況來看,貿易戰有升溫的可能性,不再限於貨物買賣那麼簡單,而是影響海外投資及商貿活動。」

高力國際亞洲區估價及諮詢服務副常務董事張翹楚深表同意,他解釋:「本地市場主要由需求主導,而非投資需求。經濟基礎是推動市場氣氛的關鍵,縱使大部分受影響的貨物不是日用品,貿易戰將影響許多工業,並威脅本地就業。」低失業率是物業市場最主要指標之一,處於低位時,市場表現良好;當處於高位,市場波動。張續說:「求職市場的波動會影響負擔能力及市場情緒;再者,按揭率上升的可能性高,加上貿易戰持續,令買家猶豫不決。」

左右為難

如果有汽車零件供應商因此結業,對物業市場的影響顯而易見,不單令工廠單位空置,行政人員使用的寫字樓亦如是。貿易戰若持續下去,不難想像對就業、房產及零售均有影響。

高力國際8 月份出版的《Market Intelligence》指出:「我們預期2018下半年,基於本地經濟強勁,旅客數字急升,零售市道會暢旺。但若中美貿易戰惡化,縱使全年經濟前景樂觀,也可能令零售增長放緩。」香港的零售業剛復甦,貿易戰有可能令零售增長停滯不前,打擊消費意欲。目前,業主和投資者對寫字樓的需求仍然很高,至少現在,零售復甦仍未受影響。

馬安平補充:「市場擔心倘若貿易戰規模擴大,將會減低企業投資及拓展業務的意欲,最終令經濟增長放緩。」事實上,這會削弱需求,特別是來自中國,因近年本地市場的動力來自內地。馬表示:「有些採購公司已延遲拓展大計,因貿易戰的去向不明朗。」

在許多方面,香港是進退維谷,一方面與中國的經濟連繫愈來愈密切,另方面卻與美金掛勾,香港漸漸感到中美貿易戰所帶來的逆轉,問題在於影響力度的強弱。高力國際的張翹楚表示:「人民幣弱勢會影響中國出口,作為這兩個國家的轉口貿易中心,香港的航運業、物流業和零售業將會受到莫大衝擊。不單影響中國採購意欲,香港經濟放緩將會影響房地產市場的增長,特別是物業投資,如酒店、中環商業區的寫字樓及倉庫。」不過陰霾下仍有一絲曙光:貿易戰對中小型住宅的影響輕微,因為需求主要來自用家,加上供應有限,價格下跌的可能性低,至少貿易戰不會推高價格。

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