Despite the negative headlines on China, and the threat of Washington slapping tariffs of 10% or more on everything shipped to the U.S. from China, the world’s biggest financial indexes can’t get enough of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed companies.
On Monday, FTSE followed in MSCI’s footsteps and added mainland China equities, known as the A-shares, into its FTSE Emerging Markets Index. That means that investors holding Vanguard’s FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) exchange traded fund can no longer avoid China. The fund already invested in China’s ADRs and offshore listings in Hong Kong.
FTSE said they would be adding mainland China stocks to its massive emerging markets index back in September.
China’s mainland stock market is now unavoidable to anyone investing passively in the two biggest emerging market index trades.
The inclusion of over 1,000 small, mid- and large-cap China A Shares are expected to constitute around 5.5% of the total FTSE Emerging Index. That move represents initial net passive inflows of $10 billion of assets under management.
Vanguard will have to rebalance its fund to buy those stocks. China companies just hit pay dirt.
“The drivers for this are clear. Over the past decade, China has made great strides in opening up its market as part of an extraordinary economic transformation over the last 40 years, which has seen it grow to become the second-largest economy in the world,” says Jessie Pak, the managing director for FTSE Russell in Asia.
The new listings will be added this month in a phased timeline.
Newcomers to be added to the index include at least three initial public offerings, some of which listed in Hong Kong.
Medical devices company WuXi AppTec launched in May, raising $354 million in an IPO. The Shanghai-listed company’s share price is up 18.29% year-to-date in the local currency, underperforming the Shanghai Composite index, which is up over 30%.
Maritime shipper COSCO Shipping Holdings, an acronym as ubiquitous at worldwide shipping ports as gantry cranes are, was also added to the list. COSCO shares are up 23% in renminbi year-to-date.
The total market capitalization of China A Shares included in the FTSE Emerging Index is $59 billion as of Monday, with another $295 billion to be added by March 2020. Around $140 billion is tracking the FTSE Emerging Index, according to the company.
Vanguard’s FTSE Emerging Markets ETF has around $63 billion in assets under management as of today.
“The markets have been rocked since early May by the apparent breakdown of trade talks between the U.S. and China, but Chinese equity markets are still holding to gains of more than 20%,” says Nick Yeo, manager of the Aberdeen China A Share Equity Fund (GOPAX). The mutual fund launched in 2004 and is up 5.3% since inception and 6.4% so far this year.
China investors like Aberdeen are still trying to recover from last year’s bear market losses. Markets began recovering in December when valuations for mainland Chinese stocks fell to about 10 times forward earnings, which put China multiples at Russia-like lows.
Trade war notwithstanding, China simply became too cheap to ignore.
“Even now, valuations are relatively cheap at about 12 times,” says Yeo, adding that those multiples are below five-year averages, thanks in large part to trade uncertainties.
Besides MSCI giving China’s A-shares a boost earlier this year, the People’s Bank of China has been supportive as well. Other pro-growth measures in China, including a range of tax cuts for companies and lower- to middle-income earners, have also helped.
“We are long-term, fundamental investors and look beyond the short-term noise,” says Yeo about the risk of more anti-China tariffs later this year. Sectors Aberdeen likes include travel, liquor and China’s burgeoning healthcare services industry, especially companies that are more dependent on China and/or Asia, and less dependent on the U.S.
China-bound investors will be watching for more noise this week. Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping will meet in Osaka, Japan during the G20 Summit.
Lipper reported on Monday that China-centric equity mutual funds in the U.S. had $2.24 billion redeemed since April 1. Investors have been dumping the A-shares as they begin to pencil in tariffs on everything Made in China in the coming months.