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Asia/China Growth Equities – Jian Shi Cortesi

Jian Shi Cortesi notes that weak sentiment in China is keeping Chinese equities at very low valuations, due to the soft economic growth, real estate drag and the ongoing China-US rivalry. However, she is optimistic about long-term prospects, with the conviction that in the long term earnings growth will drive stock prices.

What were the major recent events and impacts on your asset class?

In the third quarter, the MSCI Asia ex Japan index declined 3% amid the concerns over the ongoing slowdown of the Chinese property market, as well as high interest rates in the United States. Among the major markets, we saw that India, Malaysia and Singapore delivered good performance in the quarter, while Korea and Taiwan underperformed, mainly due to the slow technology demand so far this year. And in China, the weak sentiment is keeping the China equity at very low valuations. The sentiment is weak due to the soft economic growth momentum, the real estate drag, as well as the ongoing China-US rivalry. In addition, the policy stimulus has been below expectations for many investors. In our view, the Chinese government wants to support the economic growth in the short term, but they want to avoid issuing large stimulus, which could lead to asset bubble and high inflation down the road. And despite high valuations, we saw that investors continue to favour India as it is seen as a key beneficiary of the supply chain relocation.

What can your asset class offer in the current environment?

Today, we believe Asian equities offer attractive secular growth combined with attractive valuations. China and Asia remain a key driver for the global economic growth. The International Monetary Fund data shows that this year, 70% of the global economic growth will come from Asia, with China contributing about 30% of the global growth and India contributing 15%. And despite being the key growth driver, valuations in Asia and China remain very low. When we look at the MSCI China Index and the MSCI Asia ex Japan Index, we can see that both indexes trade at very low levels and the capital flow into Asia has been very weak and the region has been quite oversold. And right now, we see many investment opportunities in Asia and China.

The technology cycle is bottoming out in Asia and AI is showing up as a timely catalyst. And in the portfolio, we have exposure to companies with exposure to AI, not only in semiconductors but also in the internet space. Another area that we like very much is the reopening theme, particularly related to travel. We have seen strong travel rebound in Asia and we believe the trend is sustainable. And finally, clean energy is an area that we're actively looking for opportunities, especially after the strong stock price correction in this area over the last 12 months. Today, we see attractive entry points to some of the leading clean energy names.

What is your outlook in the near and medium term?

In the short term, particularly in the last month, we are seeing improvements in some of the key economic numbers in Asia and China. For example, manufacturing PMI has started to improve in China, Korea and Taiwan. This indicates that the manufacturing sector is stabilizing in the export oriented Asian economies. And in the meantime, the PMI number in India and Indonesia has eased from very elevated levels, but they remain firmly in the expansionary territory. And for China, given the countercyclical nature of the Chinese policy, we expect to see further supportive policies for the real estate sector as well as for the overall economy. This will be necessary to help sentiment improve on China. This year, we have already seen a number of supportive measures from China, including mortgage rate reductions and the removal of some home purchase restrictions, and Chinese homeowners remain in good financial health, with the mortgage delinquency rate at a very low 1.2% in 2022. And for the troubled real estate developers, we believe the speeding up of the bankruptcy process and the liquidation process could help the real estate sector go back to a healthy state.

And in our view, the more reliable catalyst for Asian equity this year would be earnings growth. Looking at earnings growth, the fastest earnings growth this year is expected from the service sector, thanks to the post-Covid recovery. And we continue to see many of our portfolio companies delivering good earnings results. Some of these good results have been so far ignored by the markets and not yet reflected in the stock prices, but we have also seen some stocks reacted positively to the earnings growth and have staged a sustained rally from the very low level. In the short term, the stock prices are driven by perceptions, in the long term, earnings growth drives stock prices. We believe that it is a matter of time before investors notice the good earnings coming from some of the Asian companies.

Is there one chart you’re currently monitoring closely?

Currently we are tracking the US dollar index on a frequent basis. Historically, the US dollar index has a strong negative correlation to Asian equity performance. When the US dollar strengthens, the Asian equity performance tends to be poor. And when the US dollar weakens, Asian equity performance tends to be strong. Recently we have seen a rally in the US dollar, and this has weakened the appetite for Asian equities, as high interest rates in the US makes the US dollar-based assets more attractive to investors and dampen the demand for non-US dollar assets. But on the other side, the weak Asian currencies creates a tailwind for Asian exports and make Asian products more competitive and increase the demand for Asian products. And when we see a pause of the US dollar strength, we think that could be a very strong catalyst for Asian equity to perform better.

Important disclosures and information
The information contained herein is given for information purposes only and does not qualify as investment advice. Opinions and assessments contained herein may change and reflect the point of view of GAM in the current economic environment. No liability shall be accepted for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained herein. Past performance is not an indicator of current or future trends. The mentioned financial instruments are provided for illustrative purposes only and shall not be considered as a direct offering, investment recommendation or investment advice or an invitation to invest in any GAM product or strategy. The securities listed were selected from the universe of securities covered by the portfolio managers to assist the reader in better understanding the themes presented. The securities included are not necessarily held by any portfolio or represent any recommendations by the portfolio managers.

No guarantee or representation is made that investment objectives will be achieved. The value of investments may go down as well as up. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Investors could lose some or all of their investments.

The MSCI All Country Asia ex Japan Index captures large and mid cap representation across 2 of 3 Developed Markets (DM) (excluding Japan) and 8 Emerging Markets (EM) countries or regions in Asia. DM include Hong Kong and Singapore. EM include China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. With 1,244 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The MSCI China Index captures large and mid cap representation across China A shares, H shares, B shares, Red chips, P chips and foreign listings (eg ADRs). With 717 constituents, the index covers about 85% of this China equity universe. Currently, the index includes Large Cap A and Mid Cap A shares represented at 20% of their free float adjusted market capitalisation. Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) is an index of the prevailing direction of economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors. It consists of a diffusion index that summarises whether market conditions are expanding, staying the same, or contracting as viewed by purchasing managers. The PMI is based on a monthly survey of supply chain managers across 19 industries, covering both upstream and downstream activity. The U.S. Dollar Index (USDX) is a relative measure of the US dollars (USD) strength against a basket of six influential currencies, including the Euro, Pound, Yen, Canadian Dollar, Swedish Korner, and Swiss Franc. References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in indices which do not reflect the deduction of the investment manager’s fees or other trading expenses. Such indices are provided for illustrative purposes only. Indices are unmanaged and do not incur management fees, transaction costs or other expenses associated with an investment strategy. Therefore, comparisons to indices have limitations. There can be no assurance that a portfolio will match or outperform any particular index or benchmark.

This presentation contains forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involve a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of GAM or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made.

Jian Shi Cortesi

Investment Director

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