Don’t say Asia Unhedged didn’t tell you so. Bloomberg reports the action in Shanghai and Hong Kong stocks continues unabated and has catapulted Asian stock markets to the forefront of the worldwide equity rally for the first time in nine months.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which captures large and mid cap representation, is up 5.2%in April. That’s the first time it’s overtaken the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and the European benchmark measure since July. The largest gains, unsurprisingly, were posted in Shanghai and Hong Kong, vaulting to levels not seen since 2008. Investors pumped more money into local stocks on expectations that China’s government will undertake further stimulus measures to spark a slowing economy.
“The strong performance in Asia thus far has been driven by China,” said Kelvin Tay, Singapore-based chief investment officer for South Asia Pacific at UBS Wealth Management told Bloomberg. “The Chinese economy still hasn’t bottomed out so there is more room for further easing. Even if the the U.S. starts normalizing rates, we still have a lot of liquidity sloshing around.”
In the wake of signals by the U.S. Federal Reserve that it plans to raise rates later this year for the first time since 2006, major Asian central banks are adopting easier monetary stances. The People’s Bank of China has cut interest rates twice since November and relaxed lender reserve requirements earlier this month. The Bank of Japan kept its stimulus policy in place at a key Thursday meeting. Borrowing costs in South Korea also hit a historic low in March.
Bloomberg said: “All of the MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s 10 industry groups advanced in April, with energy shares soaring 12% to lead gains as oil rebounded. Companies that benefit from increased stock turnover in Hong Kong surged, with the city’s bourse operator advancing 56% and brokerage Haitong Securities Co. climbing 35%.