Stocks for China's shaky economy

There are some Chinese stocks in the right sectors that also trade with decent liquidity in New York.

By Jim J. Jubak Jun 8, 2012 6:13PM
Thursday I wrote that market reaction to the interest rate cuts by the People's Bank could cut one of two ways. 

Investors could either bid up Chinese stocks, because China's central bank had escalated its stimulus of the flagging economy, or sell Chinese stocks on worries that the move indicated that China's economy was slowing more quickly than expected.

Post continues below.
The votes came in overnight, and on the surface it looked like Chinese investors went for option No. 2. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 0.94% and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.51%.

But if you take apart the indexes and look at the winners and losers, a more complex pattern emerges that's part option No. 1 and part option No. 2. If that pattern holds up on Monday, after the Saturday release of May data that is almost certain to show China's economy decelerating more quickly than a month ago, I think investors can identify likely winners from China's increased stimulus efforts and start buying, slowly, some of those stocks.

What jumps out at me if I look at the winners and losers in the Hang Seng index last night is how the losers are dominated by China's big banks. Five of the six biggest losers are banks. The list starts with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (IDCBY), down 4.91% on the day; and continues with Bank of Communications (BCMXY), down 4.6%; China Construction Bank (CICHY), down 4%; Bank of China, down 3.16%; and Bank of East Asia (BKEAY), down 2.70%.

Since shares of China's banks make up 22% of the market capitalization-weighted Hang Seng index, it isn't remarkable that the index itself fell considering the plunge in the price of shares in these banks.

What is interesting -- and potentially important -- is that the index went down just 0.94% on the day despite the plunge in these banks -- because other parts of the index climbed steeply.

What went up? Non-bank financials such as Ping An Insurance Group (PNGAY) and China Life Insurance (LFC), up 1.97% and 1.38%, respectively. Energy producers such as China Resources Power Holdings (CRPJY) and China Shenhua Energy (CSUAY), up 3.1% and 2.01%, respectively. And property developers such as China Overseas Land (CAOVY) and China Resources Land (CROJF), up 2.49% and 2.05%, respectively.

I think shares of China's big banks went down because the decision by the People’s Bank to allow banks to undercut the official lending interest rate by 20% and to exceed the official deposit interest rate by 10% raised fears that banks would compete for customers and that would cut into the fat profits that China's banks have earned from regulated rates.

And I think the shares of non-bank financials, energy producers, and property developers rose because investors saw, rightly in my opinion, this interest rate as a sign that the Chinese government was getting much more active in its efforts to stimulate the economy.

I'd like to see if the reaction Monday to this weekend's almost certainly dismal economic data bears out my thinking on those patterns.

If we do get relative outperformance from economically sensitive sectors like those that climbed overnight Thursday night, then I think I’d be willing to slowly increase my bets in these sectors. Some stocks I’d recommend you look at, because they’re in the right sectors and because they trade with decent liquidity inNew York would include those two insurance companies Ping An and China Life, Aluminum Corp. of China (ACH), Home Inns and Hotels Management (HMIN), and China Eastern Airlines (CEA). Home Inns and Hotels is a member of my Jubak’s Picks portfolio.

At the time of this writing, Jim Jubak didn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this post in personal portfolios. The mutual fund he manages, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not own positions in any stock mentioned. The fund did own shares of Home Inns and Hotels Management and Ping An Insurance Group as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund's portfolio here.
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