Chinese equities remain attractive as global investors withstand Omicron
Despite emerging worries over the Omicron variant, the time to increase positions in Chinese equities may have arrived amid expectations over easier macro policy and bottoming-out of key sectors like the internet, leading global investment firms said.
"The Omicron variant is not likely to reverse the global economic recovery," said Hu Yifan, regional chief investment officer and head of macroeconomics for Asia-Pacific with UBS Global Wealth Management, one of the world's largest wealth managers.
"But it has indeed brought more risks and uncertainties to the growth of the world economy," Hu said.
Amid the reignited COVID-19 pandemic uncertainties, China's supply chain resilience and stable production capacity have once again shined, propping up global investors' growing interest in Chinese equities, she said.
China's A-share market has largely withstood the shock of the new COVID-19 variant named Omicron on Monday, which the World Health Organization designated as "a variant of concern".
The Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.04 percent on Monday to close at 3562.7 points. The Shenzhen Component Index rose by 0.22 percent to close at 14810.2 points, though the broader Asia-Pacific markets ended mostly lower on Monday.
The worst may be over for China's equity market and an around mid-teen upside for the MSCI China Index is foreseen in 2022, Hu said, citing that consumption upgrade, high-end manufacturing, green technology and other investment themes in China have particularly drawn global investor interest.
"We think the timing to position in the China market is right now," said Lucy Liu, a portfolio manager for global emerging market equities at BlackRock.
A string of positive factors, including the expected policy easing, attractive valuations, bottoming-out signs in key sectors like internet and property, and abundant structural opportunities across various sectors may support Chinese equities in 2022, Liu said.
BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, has moved up its China-market positions in Asia-focused portfolios to neutral from underweight and will adopt a moderately overweight position on Chinese equities in 2022, according to its latest Asia investment outlook.
"Pro-market and pro-growth measures will become more apparent next year," Liu said, given recent policy signals of monetary accommodation and fiscal supports as well as China's pursuit of common prosperity, which entails growth stabilization as a key pillar.
She added that BlackRock has narrowed its underweight call on Chinese internet companies as the authorities may temper regulations on the sector. So, it is positioning its China portfolios along the four themes of sustainability, self-reliance, social equality and data security.
"If you believe in the China (growth) story in the long term, the phase we are at now is an opportune time to build out a portfolio of assets in China," said Manraj Sekhon, chief investment officer for emerging market equity with Franklin Templeton, another global investment firm.
A strong economy, wealth creation, urbanization and rapid consumption growth of the middle-income group will continue to help China to become the world's largest economy in the next 10 to 15 years, Sekhon said.
"On the regulatory front, the impact of it toward the valuation for a lot of large internet-related companies is already priced in," he said.
Yet, some experts are more cautious about the ramifications of the new coronavirus variant than others. "We suggest that investors take a wait-and-see approach, pending the visibility of the influence and policy responses of the new round of COVID-19 cases," said an Essence Securities report on Monday.