Markets rise as China pledges fresh property support

HONG KONG (AFP): Stock markets rose Tuesday, with Hong Kong and Shanghai lifted by China’s moves to support its struggling property sector and authorities’ pledges to further help the economy.

The extended gains in New York and Europe as traders look ahead to the release of key US inflation data this week, which could provide a fresh indication of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate plans. However, concerns remain about the upcoming earnings season owing to the high valuations, ever-tightening monetary policies, and signs of a slowdown in the economy.

Hong Kong was again one of the best performers on Tuesday, a day after a tech-fuelled advance that came after Beijing hit fintech firms Ant Group and Tenpay with big fines and signaled a sector crackdown was almost over.

On Monday, authorities urged banks and other financial institutions to provide easier terms for ailing developers by renegotiating the terms of their loans, with the aim of ensuring homes under construction are delivered.

And on Tuesday, state-run financial newspapers said more announcements were in the pipeline as well as measures to boost business confidence. The moves come as the vast property industry in China strains under the weight of enormous debts, with some firms such as Evergrande on the verge of collapse.

The crisis has sent shivers through the world’s number-two economy, which has in turn weighed on global growth. The chairman of Australian mining giant Rio Tinto warned this week of a knock-on effect on the commodities sector. Beijing has come under immense pressure in recent months to unveil new growth-fuelling policies after a series of below-par indicators showed the post-Covid rebound has run off the tracks.

“China’s latest policy support toward the property sector was a bit surprising — given the low expectations on the property market,” said Zhou Hao, of Guotai Junan International Holdings.

“The policies are intended to hedge against the strong headwinds in the market.”
However, observers warn there is limited scope in the amount of stimulus officials can provide owing to huge local government debt and leaders’ desire to recalibrate the growth model from a vast state investment model.

Hong Kong and Shanghai enjoyed healthy gains, with Sydney, Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta also up. Tokyo eked out marginal gains.

Paris and Frankfurt rose in the morning.

But London dipped as data showing UK wage growth surging piled pressure on the Bank of England to keep hiking rates. That sent the pound to a 15-month high above $1.29.

The release of US consumer and producer inflation data this week is now in focus as investors gird themselves for the Fed to resume its rate hiking drive after last month’s pause.

While data has pointed to a slowdown in US jobs growth and a tempering of economic activity, most bets are for borrowing costs to go up this month and possibly at least once more before the end of the year.

Several central bank officials have lined up to warn more tightening was needed to get prices under control and inflation back to the Fed’s two percent goal.
The data is followed by earnings from some of Wall Street’s big beasts including JP Morgan Chase, Delta Air Lines, and PepsiCo.

But observers said the reporting season could be a tough one for markets as firms are expected to provide dour forecasts in light of the higher rates environment and the near-term outlook for the global economy.