Equity market price volatility is the greatest threat to China’s near-term economic outlook, according to a recent survey.
That was the conclusion of a third of attendees of rating agency Moody’s annual banking conferences in Hong Kong and Singapore this month.
The poll results were released yesterday, on the same day that China’s key equity benchmark suffered its biggest one-day fall since 2007.
Attendees in Hong Kong ranked “property market weakness” (15%) as the fourth-greatest threat, behind “equity market volatility” (32%), “rising corporate debt” (22%) and “rising bank non-performing loans” (20%).
That is a turnaround from January, when attendees of Moody’s Asia-Pacific outlook briefings in Singapore and Hong Kong respectively saw a prolonged downturn in its property market as the main threat to China’s economic outlook.
Hong Kong’s stock exchange reflected the shift yesterday (July 27). Stocks of financial services firms accounted for ten of the top twenty decliners by turnover alongside only one property firm.
The top twenty decliners on Hong Kong’s stock exchange did not feature brokerage Citic Securities, despite a 9.09% drop in its share price. The brokerage’s Shanghai-listed shares plunged by their 10% daily limit, alongside other brokerages including Haitong Securities and China Merchants Securities.
“Unwinding asset bubbles” was seen as the greatest macro threat to Asian banks in the coming 12 months – ahead of China’s growth slowdown – according to the Moody’s poll this month in both Hong Kong and Singapore. The Hong Kong poll was taken on July 7, and the Singapore survey on July 10, during a week of A-share market turmoil.
Still, the 8.48% decline in Shanghai’s composite index on July 27 followed the July 24 release of Caixin’s flash PMI, which came in at 48.2, below a consensus of 49.7 which would have marked a pick up from 49.4 in June.
Asset price rises had priced in an economic – and property market – recovery. Larry Hu, China economist at Macquarie, said that home prices continue to be the “biggest swing factor for policy in the second half of 2015”. He observed that the recovery in the property market is “not solid” as of yet. Property sales rose 13% year on year in the second quarter of 2015 but property investment has failed to keep up, rising 2% year on year over the same period.
Back in January, attendees were asked to select the greatest challenge facing Asian sovereigns in 2015. The top response in both Hong Kong and Singapore was China’s slowing economy followed by “uncertainty resurfacing in the euro area” in Hong Kong and “monetary tightening in the US” in Singapore.
This month, neither Europe nor the US featured highly among concerns. Moody’s senior credit officer Eugene Tarzimanov observed that, regionally, “rate hikes in the US are not viewed as a big risk – they are already priced in and have been expected for so long”. Still, “dig into specific countries” and concerns about the impact of US rate hikes emerge.
Asked which economies in Asia were most vulnerable to US interest rate hikes, attendees in Hong Kong (43%) and Singapore (53%) named Indonesia. The second most vulnerable economy was Hong Kong according to attendees of the Hong Kong conference and Singapore according to attendees in Singapore.