Investors pin hopes on US, but fear for China

Respondents to an AsianInvestor survey say their greatest hope for 2015 is continued US economic expansion, while an unstable Chinese financial system is their biggest fear.
Investors pin hopes on US, but fear for China

More than a third of investors are pinning their hopes on US economic growth to pull the world out of its malaise, finds our AsianInvestor readership survey for 2015*.

In an online poll over the past month, a total of 173 readers answered 10 questions on their outlook for the future of the economy and investments over the course of this year.

When asked what they saw as the greatest hope for this year, by far the largest response (37.6%), saw respondents opt for continued US economic expansion.

Reflecting the collapse of fuel prices since last summer, in a distant second place was ‘cheap oil for Asian importers’ at 20.8%.

Clearly China is at the forefront of many investors’ minds, with 17.9% pinning their hopes on maintaining Chinese financial stability, and 16.2% keen for steady mainland GDP growth.

A mere 7.5% of readers felt ‘Asian decoupling from emerging markets’ offered the greatest hope for 2015. 'Decoupling' was widely touted, until 2008, as a way of explaining the rising strength and detachment of emerging markets from the West, but international contagion seen in the global financial crisis has reduced the concept's popularity.

While investors' hopes are vested in the US, their fears are clearly fixed on China (see table below).

With banks struggling under the weight of bad loans and shadow-banking risks threatening a wave of defaults, financial instability in China was voters’ greatest concern (27.2%) for this year.

Close behind (26.6%) was the fear of an emerging-market crisis and the contagion that could result, akin to the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98, which began in Thailand and quickly spread around the region.

After more than six years of ultra-low interest rates, the prospect of a hike in US rates is clearly a concern to investors, with 22.5% voting it as their top concern. The consensus among analysts is that the Federal Reserve will raise rates this year in small increments, most likely between June and September.

Interestingly, investors’ fourth-greatest fear was essentially the same as their fourth-greatest hope: 13.3% cited a slowdown in China’s GDP as their biggest worry.

Meanwhile, respondents were relatively unconcerned about the big price drop and wild swings in the price of oil over the past year. This may reflect the fact that a low oil price benefits commodity-importing countries, such as China, India and Japan, and that commodities account for a relatively small part of portfolios.

A year ago a barrel of Brent crude was trading at more than $100 a barrel; now it is less than half the price, below $50 a barrel. Only 10.4% of respondents said oil price volatility was their greatest concern for the year ahead.

*See the upcoming February issue of AsianInvestor magazine for the full results, as well as a feature covering 10 predictions on big questions for 2015.

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