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China Roundup: Who Moved the Hang Seng Index?

April 09, 2015

This week, mainland investors pushed the Hang Seng Index to a seven-year high; Alibaba’s Ant Financial launched a Big Data-based stock index; and Cloud Live Technology teetered close to a default.

Behind Hong Kong’s Stock Surge

Some analysts believe mainland investors are pushing up shares in Hong Kong, as the Heng Seng Index surpassed 27,000 points on Thursday morning, a seven-year high since the market crashed during the global financial crisis. The index then closed about 56 points below that mark but still finished with a 2.7% gain.

On Wednesday, the daily quota for southbound capital of the Hong Kong-Shanghai Stock Connect scheme was used up for the first time. Since the through train program’s debut in November last year, mainland investors have had a somewhat lukewarm response to the so-called H-shares.

The trend reversal can be possibly attributed to the jump in the Shanghai market, which in turn makes the Hong Kong price of those dual-listing companies relatively cheaper, giving investors an incentive to engage in arbitrage. But other analysts suggest that it’s foreign investors that are snapping up shares instead.

Alibaba’s New Index

The financial affiliate of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, Ant Financial Services Group, rolled out a Big-Data based stock index on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The CSI Taojin Big Data 100 Index, as it is called, covers industries such as food and beverage, household durables and apparel, among others. Based on public financial data, industry analysis and Ant’s exclusive e-commerce data, 100 top stocks in these industries are selected to make up the index samples.

Ant’s partner Bosera Asset Management will launch a fund and a note linked to the index within this month. Although Alibaba’s money market fund product Yu’e Bao is a big success, the market may need some time to accept such a new and unique index.

(Yet) Another Bond Default

Cloud Live Technology, a restaurant chain that recently rebranded itself as an internet company, is not doing so well in the transition. The company announced this week that it doesn’t have enough money to pay back a RMB 400 million bond it issued in 2012.

It’s very rare for a Chinese company to default, as the government usually bails out firms out of the fear of social unrest. But Cloud Live investors could be the first batch that loses money, as Beijing pushes forward financial reforms to further liberalize markets, which requires the government to take a backseat in such defaults.

The company says it’s still trying to get that RMB 241 million-hole covered in the coming month. But if the payment delay drags longer than 30 days, creditors may enter legal proceedings to demand payback.

China’s Elon Musk?

Dubbed by some publications as China’s answer to Tesla’s billionaire CEO, Liu Ruopeng is indeed doing something cool.

His Shenzhen-based company, Kuang-Chi Institute of Advanced Technology, has recently bought a controlling stake in the New Zealand company that makes the Martin Jetpack, an experimental device that people can wear to fly, the South China Morning Post reported. The prototype may not be as advanced as Iron Man’s suit, but it can fly a person (rather slowly compared with other aircrafts) at an altitude of 4,900 feet, which, you’ll agree, is quite something.

Kuang-Chi, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, also faces tremendous skepticism: that what it does in aerospace is no more than a fancy bubble. And like Tesla, the company made losses last year.

The RMB vs the Euro

The Chinese currency has been rising about 20% against the euro since early 2014, putting more and more pressure on Chinese exports in the backdrop of an economic slowdown.

Deutsche Bank’s analysts estimate that the chances of a devaluation of the RMB against the euro are increasing, as the euro may continue to fall against the US dollar. Although China’s central bank is setting the RMB’s exchange rate against the dollar in accordance with a basket of currencies, economists say that the RMB’s de-facto value is still pegged to the US dollar. The RMB’s guideline rate against the euro is calculated based on the RMB/dollar rate.

Citigroup said in a note last week that “we do not expect any change in China’s currency policy near term, but if the USD appreciates markedly further, debate may resurface over whether China’s FX link to the USD is sustainable over time.”

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