Hong Kong stocks extend quarterly decline as jitters about global growth resurface

  • Stocks extended a quarterly loss as monetary policy tightening and the Russia-Ukraine war reignited fears of a global growth slowdown
  • Traders were on edge over a ‘yield-curve inversion’ in US Treasuries, something that tends to foreshadow recession

Hong Kong stocks dropped, extending a quarterly loss, as the prospect of monetary policy tightening and the Russia-Ukraine war reignited concerns about a global growth slowdown.

The Hang Seng Index slid 0.7 per cent to 21,837.48 at the noon break on Friday. The benchmark posted a 6 per cent loss in the first quarter, its third straight decline, battered by a flurry of headwinds such as a regulatory crackdown in mainland China and the earnings misses of Chinese technology juggernauts.

The Hang Seng Tech Index tumbled 1.7 per cent. AAC Technologies and Alibaba Group Holding retreated more than 3 per cent, leading the declines in the city’s stocks.

The Shanghai Composite Index rebounded 0.6 per cent, as China’s biggest commercial city battles a spike in Covid-19 infections that has already halted production at plants including Tesla’s Gigafactory.

The west half of Shanghai moved into a four-day lockdown on Friday, while most of the city’s eastern region will not come out of lockdown as planned, according to the municipal government.

Traders were on edge over a “yield-curve inversion”, in which the rate on the two-year US Treasury exceeds that on the 10-year bond. Such a pattern typically heralds a recession, which may be aggravated by more aggressive interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve.

While oil prices dropped overnight after the US said it will release its strategic reserve, the Russia-Ukraine war is likely to keep global commodities in tight supply, elevating prices. Commodities were the only class of assets that registered gains in the first quarter, with money piling in as a hedge against inflation.

“Slowing growth and higher inflation create a recipe for volatility as asset prices adjust to the new environment. As a result, we have lightened up on risk for now,” said Sylvia Sheng, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. “Technically, equities are oversold, and valuations present less of a headwind, but rising inflation is causing concerns about profit margins.”

All 66 members of the Hang Seng Index managed to release their annual results before the March 31 deadline. The average 25 per cent earnings growth trailed analysts’ estimates by 0.9 per cent, according to Bloomberg data.

Still, trading in at least 30 companies on the Hong Kong exchange, including several beleaguered Chinese property developers, has been halted because they failed to make their disclosures in time. Among them were China Evergrande Group, Sunac China Holdings and Kaisa Group Holdings, according to exchange data.

Among the biggest losers on the benchmark index, AAC Technologies slumped 4.4 per cent to HK$18.14, Alibaba Group lost 3.9 per cent to HK$107.70 and Country Garden Holding sank 4.6 per cent to HK$5.75.

Author: Zhang Shidong, SCMP

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