Goldman Is Warning of More Pain Ahead. Don't Listen
Whenever there's a sharp global sell-off sparked by U.S. equities, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. comes out warning of more volatility and pain ahead.
In July, when there was a brief dip and the Cboe Volatility Index jumped, the venerable investment bank said selling from risk-parity funds, which buy government bonds to hedge against stock portfolios, could lead to more offloading of shares. The S&P 500 has managed to hum along since.
On Monday, when the Dow suffered its worst intraday points plunge in history in late afternoon trading, Goldman pointed its finger at selling by managed-futures funds, or long-short strategy funds aimed at capturing market trends. If the rout continues, there could be further unwinding from these portfolios to the tune of about $190 billion globally, Goldman said.
Asia was a sea of red on Tuesday. In January, emerging markets saw close to $14 billion of fund inflows, so some unwinding is happening. Markets in Vietnam are down more than 10 percent this week, after a 53 percent gain in 2017. Foreigners pumped a record $1 billion into the Southeast Asian frontier market last year.
But as an emerging Asia bull, I have to say a few things.
And second, emerging Asia, and China in particular, offers more protection against the rise of the machines. On Monday, bargain hunters from the mainland bought a record $1.6 billion of Hong Kong stocks through exchange links with Shanghai and Shenzhen, an option that wasn't available a few years ago. As I argued, so long as the U.S. dollar remains weak, the city's shares will remain a fertile hunting ground.
In November, China vowed to curb risks in the country's $15 trillion asset-management industry by asking funds to morph into staid mutual portfolios. The new measures saw an increase in long-only mutual funds, and in flows to Hong Kong stocks viewed as cheaper and safer, especially from investors burned by growth plays in Shenzhen. That mainland money is continuing to flow, with net buying of more than HK$5 billion ($640 million) as of the noon break Tuesday. Without that support, the Hang Seng Index would look a lot worse.
According to a Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. survey, Chinese investors accounted for 9 percent of total market turnover in July, putting them on equal footing with U.K. and U.S. investors. That presence can only be stronger now.
It's also important to remember that emerging Asia never quite recovered from the 2013 capital flight sparked by fears of a U.S. interest rate rise. Some markets, including China, Thailand and Malaysia, are still a way from their peak.
The MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index's 7.5 percent jump in January may have been too good to be true, but bears like Goldman should focus their attention on the U.S. Stock and bond valuations there look a lot more stretched.
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