Hong Kong stock market investors may be forgiven if they feel they were at the receiving end of bad luck in 2021. While Nasdaq and the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the United States reached record highs again and again, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 14 percent. The Hang Seng Tech Index, which tracks technology giants such as Alibaba and Baidu, plummeted nearly 33 percent.
More than two weeks into the new year, all that now appears so much water under the bridge. So, has the tide turned? Is it the right time to invest in Hong Kong given that stock prices appear to be nearing their historical lows?
For answers, we should first take a closer look at the reasons for the tumble last year and see if there will be any lingering ripples or aftershocks this year.
China's monopoly prevention measures in the technology sector are considered one of the reasons for the last year's plunge as investors got spooked by uncertainty.
Regulations over tech companies in the context of monopolies, use of users' personal data, privacy violations and cybersecurity are already strict, so they may not tighten further this year. Stated differently, tech stocks may have already bottomed out, so the only way to go for them is probably up.
China has vowed it will prioritize stability of economic growth this year. In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency at the end of last year, Yi Huiman, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, also stressed that efforts will be made to avoid any abrupt ups and downs in the market. Prudent evaluation will be carried out in the first place to maintain policy stability, Yi said.
More growth-stabilizing policies can be expected this year, which should help create a more relaxed and friendly policy and liquidity environment.
Another reason for the lousy performance of the Hong Kong stock market last year was the concern over US Fed's accelerated tapering. As an integral part of the global capital market, Hong Kong may be affected more by any interest rate hikes in the US. Such moves tend to hold back investors' further moves in Hong Kong.
To be sure, the Hang Seng Index did see a correction in the later part of 2021, reflecting that the market has already factored in the expectations for normalization of US monetary policy. Foreign investors use the fundamentals of China's economy as a major gauge to decide whether or not to invest in Hong Kong.
In other words, both investor sentiment and the Hong Kong stock market will likely be buoyed up if the Chinese central government introduces stabilizing policies in the first quarter of this year.
That prospect raises a key question: Which sectors are worth closer scrutiny in Hong Kong? Consumption is probably one clear choice. The growth rates of Chinese people's disposable income and consumption willingness were quite low last year, which dragged down the fundamentals of consumption companies.
The widening gap between the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index readings last year also eroded consumption companies' profitability. But, as that gap narrows, consumption companies' fortunes may rebound, creating investment value.
Hong Kong-listed internet-driven companies, whose stock prices have already nose-dived last year, may present another ideal investment target, given their marginally improving policy environment.
Above all, the Hang Seng Index has seen its price-to-book ratio falling below 1. Investors should be able to seek a long-term profit at this moment if they stick to the rule of value investing. Stop checking the personal securities account every hour as long as you believe your stock of choice is valuable in the long run.
HONG KONG NEWS