China markets slump as crackdowns shatter sentiment, 'herd mentality' kicks in
(Reuters) – China’s tech stocks slumped to new lows on Friday and Hong Kong’s benchmark index hit an almost 10-month trough, as a constant drip feed of crackdowns crushed investors’ confidence.
The Hang Seng fell 1.8% and its weekly drop of 5.8% was the largest since the height of the pandemic panic in financial markets in March 2020.
Stocks in Shanghai also fell, while investors sold risky corporate debt and the Chinese currency. The yuan was poised for its biggest weekly loss in two months as investors rushed to safety amid ongoing coronavirus concerns. [CNY/][.SS]
China this week announced tougher rules on data use and competition in the tech sector, summoned executives at property developer Evergrande to warn them on debt management and state media reported looming regulations for liquor makers.
On the heels of crackdowns on an array of private companies spanning sectors from steelmaking to e-commerce and education, it has all but sapped confidence in a market that seems yet to find a floor after months of selling.
“There isn’t really one trigger, but many bits and pieces that add to the narrative to stay away from China,” said Dave Wang, a portfolio manager at Nuvest Capital in Singapore.
“Almost on a daily basis you have negative news coming out, so it forms the impression there’s no end in sight.”
Hong Kong shares in e-commerce titan Alibaba fell 2.6% to a record closing low and have halved from an October peak. Gaming and social media giant Tencent touched a 14-month low and food deliverer Meituan hit a one-year low.
The Shanghai Composite dropped 1.1% to its lowest close in more than two weeks and blue chips fell 1.9%, with liquor makers leading losses. Bucking the trend, China Telecom surged on its debut in Shanghai.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Tech index fell 2.5% and touched its lowest since its inception last year.
It is down about 48% from a February peak as markets struggle to put a price on the risks ahead here. Alibaba, for example now commands its lowest price-to-earnings ratio since its listing in New York in 2014.
“There’s a herd mentality at the moment, people see one person selling and then they do the same,” said Louis Tse managing director of Hong Kong brokerage Wealthy Securities.
On top of that, recent data has pointed to a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy as new COVID-19 outbreaks and travel curbs crimp demand, while high raw material costs weigh on factory output. Policymakers’ persistence with debt caps on property developers is also beginning to stoke nerves.
Jittery debt markets sold off a little bit after Evergrande’s meeting with regulators and overall the premium buyers demand for China’s risky corporate bonds is widening at a time when it is shrinking elsewhere.
The yuan has fallen through its 200-day moving average against a broadly rising U.S. dollar and weakened past the psychological 6.5 per dollar mark, hitting a three-week low of 6.5059 during onshore trade on Friday.
The Hong Kong dollar sits close to its weakest in a year and a half, also suggesting money moving out of the city.
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