Ukraine crisis: stock experts assess buying the dip or seeking protection as market risks mount

  • Morgan Stanley, Amundi, RBC Wealth Management offer views on what to expect in coming days as the Russia-Ukraine conflict unfolds
  • Hang Seng Index lost 6.5 per cent this week in the worst rout since March 2020

Russia deployed its military in Ukraine this week, inflicting stock losses and spiking market volatility. The tensions added to a menu of worries for investors already trying to cope with policy tightening in the US and a slowdown in China.

The Hang Seng Index sank 6.5 per cent this week, a sell-off not seen since the depths of the pandemic in March 2020. Stocks in mainland China are in bear territory, having lost at least a fifth since the February 2021 peak.

Here’s what money managers and analysts are saying about the Ukraine conflict and the state of the equity markets.

Morgan Stanley: amplified risk premium for Chinese stocks

The conflict could inflate the risk premium for Chinese markets and push them closer to bear-case targets.

“China has considerable policy levers to pull in an adverse global growth scenario,” equity strategists led by Jonathan Garner wrote in a report on Thursday. “However, global investors may raise the risk premium on Chinese investments as a result of Russia’s actions.”

The bank’s year-end target for the Hang Seng Index in a bear-case is 21,000 points, or 8 per cent downside from Friday’s closing level.

“This [Ukraine] situation may cause investors to focus further on the areas of contention between the US and China, including Taiwan,” they said, as both nations square off in areas including trade, financial market policy and national security.

Morningstar: limited impact on Asian equities, CNOOC as winner

Energy prices are likely to remain high, even as oil and gas prices have already priced in most of the geopolitical risk, said Lorraine Tan, director of Asia equity research.

“We continue to believe that inflation leading to the risk of higher-than-expected interest rates and slowing China growth continue to carry greater risk to our fair value estimates.

“We see the oil and gas companies benefitting in the short term”, such as CNOOC, she added.

Amundi: not time to buy the dip

“[The conflict surrounding Ukraine] is just the first leg of adjustment in a process that could persist in the next weeks,” said Pascal Blanque, group chief investment officer at Europe’s biggest money manager. “This is not a time to try to buy the dip, as the market does not yet fully understand the impact of this geopolitical shock.”

The demand for protection remains high, he added, with a flight to safe-haven assets on the rise, particularly gold. “It is a time to keep hedges in place and stay cautious, but not overreact to excesses that we will likely see,” he added.

RBC Wealth Management: conflict could play out in short order

“While the situation is fluid, history shows the equity market impact could play out in short order even if the conflict lingers,” portfolio analyst Kelly Bogdanova wrote on Thursday. With cooler heads in Washington and Moscow, the pressure on stock markets should ease quickly, she said.

In 18 post-war events, the sell-off in the S&P 500 was limited to an average of 6.2 per cent and typically played out over a brief period. This is well within the bounds of a typical pullback in many scenarios, including non-military ones, she added.

The S&P 500 has retreated 4.8 per cent since February 11, when the US said a Russian invasion could begin within days before the Beijing Olympics was over. Immediate risks to equities include sanctions on Russia, which would impact energy, agriculture and metals markets and overall global economic growth.

Author: Cheryl Heng, SCMP

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