China’s hyped decoupling from emerging markets a blip

HONG KONG: A gulf has opened up between Chinese stocks and the rest of emerging-market equities in recent weeks as pandemic recoveries have diverged.

That parting of ways is likely to be short-lived, fund managers said.

Chinese equities are seen making up lost ground as the extreme pessimism toward its economy recedes and authorities take further steps to revive stuttering growth.

At the same time, the gathering enthusiasm over other developing-nation equities could peter out amid a global slowdown, causing their correlation with China to reassert itself.

“I’ve seen this decoupling story many times in the last two plus decades, it never pans out,” said Zhikai Chen, head of Asian and global emerging market equities at BNP Paribas Asset Management, which oversaw the equivalent of US$504bil (RM2.3 trillion) globally at the end of June.

“From a trade-flow perspective, and how big the Chinese economy is for commodity demand, it seems a heroic assumption.”

The MSCI China Index has dropped about 6% over the past month, whereas a similar MSCI gauge tracking the rest of emerging markets has jumped 7% in the same period.

The same disparity has also emerged in bond markets with Chinese debt eking out a gain of under 1%, compared with a 4% return for emerging markets as a whole.

Valuations have become so depressed for Chinese shares that there’s plenty of room for a rebound if sentiment stabilises.

Authorities signalled their intention to bolster growth last week, with the central bank unexpectedly cutting a key policy rate.

The government may unleash more pro-growth measures ahead of the National Party Congress expected to take place later this year, as president Xi Jinping seeks a third term. Meanwhile, increasing doubts are arising over the rest of emerging markets.

The dollar has started to strengthen again from a low set earlier this month, slowing foreign fund inflows into developing nations as a whole. — Bloomberg

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