David Hernandez, CFA
2022 has been a difficult year for Chinese equities, which are now down 43% year-to-date through October. In comparison, the MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) ex China Index is down 23% over the same period, while the MSCI World Index, a developed markets benchmark, is down 20%. It has been a seesaw year so far as Chinese equities underperformed in the first quarter, down 14% while the EM ex China index lost 3%. In the second quarter, China was one of the few countries to generate a positive return (+3%) as the EM ex China benchmark declined 18%. In the third quarter, the China index was down sharply again – -22% – with the sell-off carrying into October as other markets globally rebounded. China was down 17% in October – the worst month for the country benchmark in 11 years.
Over the course of the year there have been three key challenges to Chinese equities: 1) continuation of the zero-COVID policy, 2) property sector troubles, and 3) geopolitical issues. For most of the year, markets have reacted to various news and events centered on these three topics. More recently, markets turned sharply negative following the country’s Party Congress where President Xi Jinping was elected to an unprecedented third term and further consolidated power within the newly elected governing body. While there were hopes that the focus would shift to the economy following the Party Congress, President Xi went on to reaffirm China’s zero-COVID policy, casting a shadow over future economic growth. Chinese equities fell 8% the day after the Party Congress concluded, ending the month down 17%. Trailing and forward price-to-earnings multiples now sit close to twenty-year lows. From here, markets are likely to remain choppy, presenting both risks and opportunities to investors, until there is additional clarity regarding China’s zero-COVID policy and property sector, as well as broader geopolitical issues and China’s intentions.
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