‘No bottom in sight yet for China stocks’
SHANGHAI: Shanghai is the world’s worst-performing major stock market this year despite respectable corporate earnings, a disconnect which is feeding growing talk that Chinese equities are now a screaming buy.
Not so fast, say brokers and analysts, who warn shares have further to fall due to United States-China trade squabbling, slowing Chinese economic growth, and a government crackdown on debt that is drying up liquidity.
Despite China’s still enviable economic growth of over six per cent, the Shanghai Composite Index is down 19 per cent this year and flirting with levels not seen since late 2014.
As a result, share valuations in relation to earnings are the most attractive in years, down as much as 50 per cent compared with 10year averages in some cases.
Investors are waiting to pounce “like lions and leopards lurking in the grass”, said Zhang Qun, chief market strategist with Citic Securities.
“Looking at historical data, valuations are definitely appropriate (for buying),” he said. “But they could stay low for a while.”
Nervy authorities have begun repeatedly stressing the market’s overall attractiveness, and a report last week by China’s top state think tank touted “historically low” valuations.
“Value has emerged in the stock market,” it said.
Anticipation of a rebound has also been fed, brokers said, by major listed firms snapping up their own shares, viewing them as undervalued compared with the companies’ fundamentals.
But the market is unconvinced: sluggish trading volume last week hit its lowest levels in two years.
The government began the year on guard against excessive share price increases, and optimism was fuelled by the June introduction of hundreds of Chinese companies into MSCI’s global equities indices.
The move is expected to eventually lure billions in foreign investment into Chinese shares.
The government also outlined plans to entice emerging domestic tech giants to list shares in China rather than abroad, after first-generation champions like Alibaba and Tencent went overseas.
But 2018’s declines are by no means irrational, said Brock Silvers, managing director of investment advisory Kaiyuan Capital.
“The economy is slowing, inbound investment is declining, credit is worsening, the trade conflict is expanding, the yuan is weakening, and global interest rates are rising,” he said.
“There’s little hope for positive momentum until China’s economy revives or it reaches a trade truce.”
Nomura said it expects China’s economy and exports to weaken, has trimmed forecasts for key China share indices, and was shifting money away from Chinese equities into cash.
Despite China’s economic growth of more than six per cent, the Shanghai Composite Index is down 19pc this year and is flirting with levels not seen since late 2014.