News / Asia

China Reform Winners Consumer, Healthcare Stocks; Losers, Big Banks

Investors look at computer screens in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Hefei, Anhui province. Oct. 8, 2013.
Investors look at computer screens in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Hefei, Anhui province. Oct. 8, 2013.
Reuters
China's mass consumer, healthcare and non-banking financial counters may well be the early winners in the country's stock markets this week after Beijing promised the most sweeping economic and social reforms in nearly three decades.

Equity market investors are likely to cheer a plan to increase private ownership in state-owned enterprises, but the longer-term prognosis will likely vary across sectors.

The big losers could well be the “big four” state banks, ICBC , China Construction Bank , Agricultural Bank of China and Bank Of China, which dominate formal lending. They are already feeling the pinch of interest rate liberalization and China's leaders have promised to accelerate financial sector reform.

“In the near term, we believe market sentiment should be lifted by the detailed announcement of the Third Plenum released Friday night,” Goldman Sachs China equity strategists said in a client note referring to a four-day conclave of Communist Party leaders that set the reform agenda, promising “decisive” results by 2020.

The 60-point plan included land and residency reform to make it easier for rural Chinese to migrate to urban areas, a relaxation of the country's one-child policy and allowing markets to play a greater role in the economy.

Stock markets in Hong Kong and China had rallied on Friday after an apparent leak of part of the plan circulated on social media. The China Enterprises Index of the top offshore Chinese listings in Hong Kong jumped three percent for its biggest percentage gain in three months.

This could continue since investors are underinvested in Chinese equities, analysts said. A Bank of America-Merrill Lynch survey showed that just 11 percent of emerging market funds had an “overweight” position on Chinese equities in November ahead of the Communist Party meeting, down 45 percentage points from October.

Since the reforms announced on Friday have helped dispel doubts about the reform credentials of President Xi Jinping, some of the funds could upgrade their view of the markets and filter money back in.

Investment into China-focused equity funds has been choppy in the last month, but data from global funds tracker EPFR showed there were net inflows in the week to Nov. 13, despite market losses after the initial communiqué on the reforms released late on Tuesday had disappointed.

Follow through key

Still, much will depend on how the relevant ministries and government agencies follow through on executing the reform blueprint. That will provide clues on the urgency and priorities of the reform program, Goldman Sachs said.

China's health ministry tempered expectations on Saturday that the relaxation of China's one-child policy may eventually see restrictions lifted entirely, suggesting provinces may vary how quickly they implement the latest change. The reform plan increases the number of couples who can have a second child.

That uncertainty may temper gains for the Chinese dairy and baby goods sectors, whose sales could benefit from an increase in China's birth rate. But for the economy as a whole, some scholars and analysts say the change in the one-child policy is unlikely to do enough to reverse China's shrinking labor pool or convince many women to have more children as living costs rise.

Still, other consumer names, such as white goods retailers and food and beverage producers, will likely be lifted by plans to ease restrictions currently limiting the pace of rural-to-urban migration. Policymakers want to speed up the migration to bolster consumption and services, which they see as the future of the economy after years of investment- and export-led growth.

Limits on migration to China's biggest cities largely remain, suggesting policymakers are eager to spur growth to second-tier cities, especially as rising property prices in first-tier cities are a major concern for the central government.

The reforms pointed to an acceleration of property taxes at “the appropriate time”, but did not explicitly mention crimping property demand as a policy priority.

The lingering policy uncertainty could trigger a rotation out of outperformers in the Chinese property sector such as Country Garden and Shimao Property into larger rivals, whose share prices have lagged this year, such as China Overseas Land and China Resources Land .

Still, Beijing's move to make its urbanization policy more equitable for rural land owners will lead to an acceleration of farmland transfers in 2014 as smallholdings are consolidated, Jefferies analysts Jack Lu and Laban Yu said in a client note.

They said this should benefit agricultural machinery and high-tech farming sectors in the months ahead, such as First Tractor, Gansu Dunhuang Seed and Jiangsu Yangnong Chemical.

A plan to increase the dividends that state-owned enterprises pay to the state will likely be channeled to pay for the expansion of the social security system, analysts said. That could give a further boost to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. China's healthcare sub-index has already risen 20 percent this year.

For state-owned enterprises, which dominate many economic sectors, the impact of the reforms was not clear, analysts said.

Fuel price reforms would encourage small competitors to loosen the state's grip on the energy sector, but giving markets more influence to price energy could mean rising prices, boosting earnings of the likes of state-owned Sinopec Corp and Petrochina .

Petrochina has already reported a 20 percent rise in third-quarter profit after Beijing hiked gas prices and allowed petrol and diesel pump prices to track international crude costs more closely.

Big banks

Interest rate liberalization has already narrowed net interest margins for the “big four” state banks and the squeeze looks set to tighten further. China's central bank governor pledged soon after the reforms were announced to “pull out all stops” to deepen financial sector reforms.

The introduction of private banks will increase competition for cash deposits and loan demand. A sub index of offshore Chinese financial listings in Hong Kong is down 4.5 percent so far this year, compared with a 1.4 percent loss for the MSCI China.

The banking sector is also vulnerable in the short term to a sharp rise in onshore money market rates amid a tightening of money supply. The central bank signaled earlier this month that it would rein in money supply growth.

On the other hand, non-banking financials, such as brokerages and insurers, will stand to gain from moves to deepen China's capital markets. The reforms included making it easier for firms to launch initial public offerings, which have been suspended in mainland markets for more than a year.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs