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02/20/2012

What's Really Going on with US-Listed Chinese Stocks?


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In this report, we analyze the technical position of every US-listed Chinese stock with a market cap above $5 billion. Of these, nine are based in mainland China, three in Taiwan and two in Hong Kong. By far the best looking chart is China Petroleum and Chemical while PetroChina shares are stuck at resistance. The worst stock, from a technical perspective is the telecom provider in Taiwan, Chunghwa Telecom.

From a value investing perspective, we believe that the best time to invest in a market sector is when sentiment is extremely biased against it. Presently, in our view, US-listed Chinese stocks appear to be one of the most reviled investment sectors, and not without some cause. A series of frauds uncovered by diligent short-sellers, and halfhearted support in reforming fraudulent practices by Chinese regulators have undermined confidence in Chinese stocks. The most widely cited index of US listed Chinese stocks, the USX China Index, is off 42% from its October 2007 high but has more than doubled from its November 2008 low.

We believe that Chinese stocks, having fallen out of favor, will gain newfound interest by investors. Later today, [Ed. Note: This paper is dated February 14, 2012.] Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will be visiting the White House. Xi is expected to become the Premier or head of the government later this year and the media are expecting that this visit will lead to a “reset” of US-China relations. There are concerns about a slowdown in the Chinese economy as global commodities prices rise, real estate prices weaken and some manufacturing at the margin is returning to the US. But the Chinese economy is still largely tied to the financial health of its largest customer—the US consumer—who appears to regaining his health after a long illness. So despite the concerns, there is a bull case to be made for the Chinese economy as well.


China-Trip


We do not have a view as to whether Chinese stocks now represent a good fundamental value or how pervasive the fraud issues are. However, the key premise of technical analysis is that the charts represent “the wisdom of the crowds” or, in other words, the many market participants ranging from savvy short-sellers like Muddy Waters, large sell-side and buy-side firms globally, individual investors and corporate insiders collectively bring all their knowledge to bear in the setting of share prices, and those with the most conviction, and presumably best knowledge, have the most impact on price given the higher volumes they trade. So, stock prices tend to correctly reflect underlying fundamental value. So in this report we look at what the technicals are saying about US-listed Chinese stocks.

We begin with an overview of the major Chinese markets. Our focus is on mainland China, but it is impossible to analyze this market without considering the interrelated Hong Kong and Taiwan markets. The main stock exchange in China is the Shanghai Stock Exchange which trades two classes of stocks – A shares which are traded in Renimbi, and are limited to Chinese citizens and Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors, and B shares which are traded in dollars and available to global investors. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is 23% off its 52-week high and just 10% above its low having bottomed in January, so this may represent an interesting entry point for investors. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index bottomed in September and has gained 29%. In Taiwan, the stock exchange is 19% off its high, having bottomed in December. The USX China Index of US-listed Chinese stocks also bottomed in October and is up 25% off its low. So investors are seeing something they like again in Chinese stocks. Overall, most stocks are at inflection points of breaking out to the upside. A positive catalyst such as a good visit by Xi or a Greek settlement could push these stocks significantly higher. But, in our view, it is definitely time to be looking east again.

–Barry M. Sine, CFA, CMT

This an exerpt from a white paper entitled, "What's Really Going on with US–Listed Chinese Stocks ?" by Barry Sine, CFA, CMT, Managing Director and Director of Research at Drexel-Hamilton. Click here to download the full report.

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