The tale behind China's recent economic picture is a compelling one, filled with undertones of uncertainty, looming challenges, and a narrative of potential decline. Yet, a closer examination of the financial market indicators paints a contradictory picture that differs from impending economic doom.
At the heart of this nuanced narrative is Louis-Vincent Gave, the CEO of Gavekal, a prominent financial services firm based in Hong Kong. Drawing from his vast experience and keen market observation, Gave suggests that despite visible tremors in China's economic landscape, the financial markets do not signal an impending systemic crisis.
The Dominant Economic Discourse
Global apprehension has recently clouded China's economy, with many drawing parallels to the seismic 2008 financial crash.
From the decelerating economic rebound after a first-quarter bounce, to the overburdened property market grappling with debts and defaults, the challenges are substantial. Add to this the alarming rise in youth unemployment and a dive into the deflationary consumer prices, and the picture seems grim.
Moreover, the exodus of foreign investors, despite Beijing's relentless endeavors to bolster its markets, only amplifies the concerns.
The Financial Market's Contrary Tale
Despite these ominous signs, Gave underscores a set of intriguing financial indicators that suggest a more stabilized economic reality. His analysis draws attention away from the broader economic issues and shifts it toward a set of specific market-based signals that hint at resilience.
For starters, Gave examines the banking sector. He highlights that typically, the share prices of lenders begin to plummet several months preceding a systemic crisis. This trend was glaringly evident prior to the 2008 financial debacle.
However, in the present scenario, the FTSE China A-share bank index appreciated by 2.4% over the past year. This indicates stability and outshines U.S. lenders by a staggering 13%.
Furthermore, when one observes the bond market, Chinese government bonds are displaying a commendable performance. Since January 2020, long-duration bonds have yielded an impressive return of 17.1%, standing in sharp contrast to the negative 13.4% return seen from US T-bills.
Additionally, Gave brings our attention to the surging iron ore prices, a commodity closely tethered to China's economic health. These prices have soared by 50% since October 2022. As if to add a cherry on top, shares of luxury behemoths like LVMH, Hermès, and Ferrari are either at or flirting with their peak values.
Reconciling the Two Narratives
Gave's intention isn't to diminish the real challenges confronting China's economy. Economic growth in China, both cyclically and structurally, is indeed decelerating. However, he compellingly argues that a gaping chasm seems to exist between the prevalent fears of a systemic crisis and the behavior of most China-related assets.