JD.com, Meituan, Alibaba drag Hang Seng Index to near two-month low on fears of worsening China slowdown

  • Hang Seng Index falls 2.8 per cent in the first trading session, its lowest level since March 15
  • JD.com leads decliners with losses of 9.7 per cent

Hong Kong stocks fell to a near two-month low amid signs of a worsening outlook for China‘s economy, prompting global funds to abandon their bullish calls on Chinese assets.

The Hang Seng Index sank 2.8 per cent to 19,436.73 at the noon trading break, its lowest point since March 15 after the market reopened following a long weekend. The Tech Index plunged 4.7 per cent, while the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 per cent.

JD.com led the losses, sinking 9.7 per cent to HK$204.60, while Meituan fell 5.4 per cent to HK$148.50. Alibaba Group Holding, the owner of this newspaper, lost 5.9 per cent to HK$85.05. BYD tumbled 8.1 per cent to HK$210.20, while Sands China declined 7.2 per cent to HK$15.32.

“The biggest concern now is China’s economic activity,” said Andy Wong, fund manager and founding partner at LW Asset Management. “[Markets] have yet to fully price in the economic situation at this moment. This is a risk we can’t quantify because it depends on the news or the [Covid-19] cases on the mainland.”

China recorded its lowest export growth rate in two years in April, according to data released on Monday, cementing fears of the nation’s rapidly deteriorating growth outlook as strict zero-Covid controls disrupted supply chains. Overall exports grew by 3.9 per cent last month, the lowest since June 2020.

BlackRock ditched its bullish call on Chinese assets on Monday, downgrading the nation’s stocks and bonds to “neutral” from a “modest overweight”, noting that policymakers have yet to fully act on preventing the growth slowdown they have heralded.

Shanghai authorities tightened lockdown measures on Monday, in a fresh push to align with President Xi Jinping’s pledge to stand firm on the country’s zero-Covid goal.

Such determination has only wreaked havoc on China’s US$9.6 trillion stock market thus far, with the Shanghai Composite Index slumping 17 per cent this year. In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index has tumbled 17 per cent, wiping out US$440 billion of market value.

Losses in Hong Kong also mirrored a wider fallout on Wall Street, where stocks sank to a 13-month low overnight. The Federal Reserve warned on Monday of declining liquidity conditions across key financial markets, amid sharp monetary policy tightening by major central banks to fight rising inflation. Bitcoin dipped below US$30,000 for the first time in almost a year.

“We now need to watch out for contagion events, the markets are more intertwined than 2008, leverage is everywhere including crypto markets which are off grid,” said Peter Esho, co-founder at New South Wales-based investment property platform Wealthi. “The risk is in the unknown.”

Separately, new home sales in 23 major Chinese cities fell 33 per cent year on year during the five-day May Day holiday, according to China Real Estate Information. A gauge tracking property developers sank 3.7 per cent, the most in two months.

Country Garden dropped 12.4 per cent to HK$4.26, while Country Garden Services retreated 12.4 per cent to HK$25. The Chinese developer announced on Friday a 57 per cent drop in its contracted sales in April.

Author: Cheryl Heng, SCMP

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