Hong Kong stocks slip as Citigroup trims Alibaba price target while China lockdown, Fed tightening fuel recession risks

  • Stocks struggle to build momentum after losing 6.4 per cent last quarter on a plethora of hurdles; Citigroup trims its price target for Alibaba yet again
  • Goldman Sachs expects more rate cuts as China vows to provide support for the real economy while attention is fixed on stamping out Covid cases

Hong Kong stocks fell from a five-week high as Chinese tech companies led losses. Appetite waned as rising cases of Omicron in China and policy tightening in the US heightened recession risks.

The Hang Seng Index retreated 1.3 per cent to 21,791.30 at the local noon trading break, after earlier gaining as much as 0.7 per cent. The Tech Index lost 2.1 per cent and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 per cent.

Alibaba Group Holding slipped 2 per cent after Citigroup lowered its target of US-listed stock, while maintaining a buy call. JD.com slumped 3.6 per cent after billionaire founder Richard Liu stepped down as CEO. WuXi Biologics sank 6.2 per cent to HK$64.35 while Budweiser slipped 5.9 per cent to HK$19.20. Haidilao weakened 3 per cent as travel curbs hit consumption and leisure spending.

Shanghai remained in a citywide lockdown after it reported record-high cases for the sixth straight day, adding nearly 20,000 infections. The tally has reached 114,000 since the latest wave of outbreaks started on March 1, raking up more cases in a month than the previous two years combined.

Citigroup cut its price target on Alibaba’s US-listed stock to US$177 from US$200 on Wednesday, citing headwinds to earnings from Covid-19 impact. The stock last traded at US$105.24. She has trimmed her price target by at least eight times over the past 12 months from as high as US$338, according to Bloomberg data.

Elsewhere, US policymakers agreed on about US$95 billion monthly caps as Fed officials warned about its rapid balance-sheet reduction plan, according to minutes of its March policy meeting published on Wednesday. Deutsche Bank predicts the US economy could tip into recession in 2023.

“The fundamental outlook for [US] stocks has deteriorated since the end of last year,” Mike Wilson, Morgan Stanley’s chief investment officer said in a podcast this week. “While markets have reflected some of this deterioration, we think it remains vulnerable to disappointing growth and increased risk of a recession next year.”

Stocks in Hong Kong have struggled to build momentum in the new quarter, after losing 6.4 per cent in the first three months this year. A host of hurdles, including Shanghai lockdown, US delisting risk and secondary sanctions related to Ukraine invasion, has kept risk appetite in check.

Meanwhile, China vowed to boost its support for the real economy with monetary policy measures, according to a statement after a State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday. They include deferring social insurance collection for industries hit by lockdowns.

“We still think further cuts to policy rates and reserve-requirement ratio are likely to be part of the package to support growth,” Goldman Sachs said in a report. “Given the local Covid outbreak and local policymakers being preoccupied by anti-pandemic measures, monetary policy easing may be delivered first while infrastructure building may accelerate after Covid is brought under control.”

Major Asian markets retreated. Japanese and South Korean shares lost at least 1.2 per cent each, while Australian stocks slipped 0.6 per cent.

Two stocks debuted in Shenzhen on Thursday. Shenzhen Minglida Precision Technology jumped 10 per cent on its trading debut, while Ningbo Tianyi Medical Appliance soared 30 per cent.

Author: Cheryl Heng, SCMP

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