Asian markets have been strong in the first few weeks of the year and there are indications of some broadening of interest, with good upward moves in Hong Kong, China H-shares and Thailand, which were all rather in the shadow of India and Korea last year. But what does 2006 hold in store?The positives for Asia have been well documented. Growth is strong and likely to remain so, particularly in China and India. Inflation seems to be well contained. Much of the deflationary force which is so apparent worldwide emanates from Asia, where surplus labour abounds and infrastructural development is relentless. Borrowing is generally contained, savings rates high and property prices in most sectors and economies well below their peaks of the 1990s. Stock prices remain at a discount to their Western equivalents, selling on an average multiple in the low teens and with another year of double-digit earnings growth in the pipeline. The most likely outcome for this year is that the bull market which started in Asian stocks in 2003 will continue. It may be that last year’s best performing markets will continue to power ahead but better value would seem to be found in Thailand, Hong Kong, China and Singapore, where less euphoria is priced in. Banks in Thailand, commodity and energy stocks in China, property companies in Hong Kong and marine companies in Singapore are just some of the areas which could benefit from rising demand but had a relatively quiet 2005 in stockmarket terms. Volumes have been particularly high in Hong Kong, suggesting an improvement in local sentiment. Despite a firm undertone, the residential property market was quiet for much of last year and substantial new issuance of mainland Chinese shares provided something of a cap on the equity market. Anticipation that US interest rates may peak in the first half of the year, and perhaps fall in the second, is encouraging investors back into local property shares while recent upgrades of mainland economic growth figures has prompted buying of Chinese financial, auto and commodity shares quoted on the H-share markets. In Singapore, confidence is buoyed by an improving property market and anticipation of the upcoming tenders for the Sentosa and Marina gaming development projects, as well as continued strength in the marine sectors. In Thailand, there are very encouraging signs of accelerating foreign investment flows while the banking sector’s non-performing loan ratios are falling as new loan demand improves. There is abundant evidence that economic expansion is accelerating a confidence which has been rebuilt substantially following the economic crises of 1998 and subsequent restructuring. The recovery taking place in Japan and gradual opening up of China are additional factors contributing to a broadly-based bull market based on rising asset values and domestic demand. Asia remains susceptible to rising energy prices and any fall in demand for its manufacturing products from Europe and the US but, given current valuations, any setback should be short-lived and the trend towards currency appreciation should continue. Which stocks and sectors are likely to provide good returns in 2006? Hong Kong property has been recovering for the past three years but prices and rents are still as much as 50 per cent below old highs in some cases, despite tight supply and strong growth in the local economy. Any indication that US rates have peaked should see a further rise in prices. China stocks have been restrained by concerns over growth and weakness in the A-share market. These concerns should give way to enthusiasm for the H-share market in Hong Kong, where corporate governance issues are less pronounced and valuations low in many cases. In Singapore, the marine sector has benefited from early signs of increased exploration activity and the strong shipping market of recent years. Despite this, many stocks were quiet in 2005 and should move appreciably higher as order books improve further.
The FSA will conduct further investigations to ensure mortgage providers give relevant disclosure documents and has warned they could be accused of misselling if they fail to do so.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme has warned claim-chasing firms to get in line after being harassed by firms trying to fast-track their claims over those made direct by policyholders. The FSCS is sending out letters to firms which have been pestering staff at the compensation scheme to prioritise claims made on their clients’ behalf. Chief […]
Standard Life has written to the Revenue seeking confirm-ation that the Government will not perform another Sipp U-turn and block tax breaks for private companies investing in their own businesses. Head of pensions policy John Lawson says directors of limited companies with SSASs can switch their assets into a Sipp to take advantage of Sipps’ […]
Friends Provident PR Russell Spink tells us that while he was working at the BBC, he once met Stephen Fry in the Green Room and asked him to call his mum to wish her a happy birthday. Mr Fry kindly obliged, telling his mum: “Hello, it’s Stephen Fry here. Happy f**king birthday.” The gesture certainly […]
Last tax year-end there was a lot to think about in relation to planning. The introduction of the tapered annual allowance and the implications of moving to a fixed pension input period, the reduction in the lifetime allowance and potentially applying for protection, and the concern about changes to tax relief, to name a few. […]
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