Written by Cormac Nevin.

Markets were rather muted in Europe and the US last week, with the FTSE All Share Index of UK Equities up +0.3%, the MSCI Europe Ex-UK Index of Continental European Equities up by the same amount, and the S&P 500 Index of US Equities up +0.9%, all in GBP terms. However, greater action was found in markets in the Far East, as the MSCI China Index of stocks listed in both mainland China and Hong Kong rallied +6.6% over the week.

The Chinese equity market has been in the doldrums since peaking in early 2021. Since then, a combination of government regulatory crackdowns, a broadly botched COVID response, and increased trading restrictions stemming from geopolitics have taken their toll and the index is now at levels witnessed in 2017. Chinese equities are now arguably at attractive valuations having been among the weakest global equity markets for the first half of 2023, although risks remain.

The Chinese economy failed to roar back to the degree that many market participants expected following its re-opening in January 2023 after the abandonment of their zero- COVID policy. The market staged a strong rally last week, following Monday’s meeting of the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, whereby President Xi Jinping announced support for “countercyclical” measures from government as a form of stimulus to support the flagging economy. While property related stocks soared on this announcement, policymakers have a fine line to tread between supporting the economy and discouraging the sort of speculative frenzy that has gripped the nation’s property market recently.

Japan was also a source of interesting newsflow towards the end of last week as Kazuo Ueda, the relatively new Governor of Japan’s central bank, announced a policy tweak which would loosen the Bank of Japan’s control over the country’s bond market. This sent Japanese 10-year government bond yields sharply higher, although they are still far below yields in other markets.

Our team are following the policy developments in Asia with great interest and as a potential source of future returns within a globally diversified portfolio.

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