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Asian stocks enter bull market as investors bet on China

<i>Chen Yongnuo/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images</i><br/>Stocks in Asia are starting 2023 in a bull market. Pedestrians here walk by an electronic screen displaying the numbers for the Hang Seng Index on January 3
China News Service via Getty Ima
Chen Yongnuo/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images
Stocks in Asia are starting 2023 in a bull market. Pedestrians here walk by an electronic screen displaying the numbers for the Hang Seng Index on January 3

By Anna Cooban, CNN

Stocks in Asia are starting 2023 in a bull market. Investors have been cheered by China’s pivot away from its zero-Covid policy, the ending of its crackdown on tech companies and Beijing’s renewed commitment to growing the world’s second biggest economy.

The MSCI Asia Pacific index, which excludes Japanese companies, jumped 2.5% during Tuesday trading to close the day at 535.69 points. That’s up 24.6% since its most recent low on October 24.

A bull market is typically defined as a rise of 20% above recent lows.

The rally has been driven by a rebound in investor sentiment towards Chinese stocks. The MSCI China index rose 2.4% on Tuesday to stand 50% above its low on October 31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index has jumped 38% over the same period.

Nasdaq’s Golden Dragon China index — which tracks Chinese companies listed in the United States — rose 0.72% on Monday, putting it 71.3% above where it was trading in late October.

Investors have snapped up Chinese stocks as the country rapidly unwound its strict zero-Covid policy. On Sunday, the country reopened its border to foreign travelers for the first time in nearly three years.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a Tuesday note that the bank had raised its share price targets for Chinese companies and “expect[s] China to top global equity market performance in 2023.”

China is now focused firmly on growing its economy, following a year of Covid lockdowns that depressed demand and a debt crisis in its mammoth real estate sector. Most economists expect the country’s GDP to rebound in the second quarter of 2023 after a sluggish start.

“China’s unexpectedly rapid dismantling of Covid restrictions is paving the way for a faster-than-anticipated economic reopening,” analysts at UBS, an investment bank, said in a Tuesday note.

However, the reopening will be “bumpy,” they said, as the country grapples with a surge in infections that already appears to be peaking in certain areas.

The Chinese government hopes that by ending its crackdown on tech companies, which it began in 2020, it can help provide that much-desired boost to the economy and employment.

At a key policy meeting in December, top leaders also indicated they would introduce new measures to improve the financial condition of the ailing real estate sector and boost market confidence.

“We believe the momentum toward reopening bodes well for the investment outlook over a six- to 12-month horizon,” UBS analysts said.

— Laura He contributed reporting

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