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‘Uninvestable’ China could make a comeback

<i>VCG/Getty Images</i><br/>'Uninvestable' China could make a comeback. The bike-sharing unit of Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing
VCG via Getty Images
VCG/Getty Images
'Uninvestable' China could make a comeback. The bike-sharing unit of Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing

By Julia Horowitz, CNN Business

Foreign investors lost their nerve on parking money in China over the past year, as Beijing cracked down on the country’s biggest tech companies, the real estate sector stumbled and coronavirus lockdowns crimped growth.

Once a beacon of opportunity, the world’s second biggest economy looked like a difficult bet.

“People are very negative” on China right now, Kathryn Koch of Goldman Sachs Asset Management said at the World Economic Forum two weeks ago. “A lot of people are calling it, from a capital market perspective, ‘uninvestable.'”

Yet recently, there have been signs that the dour mood is lifting, and the market — while still risky — is once again drawing interest.

Chinese equity funds experienced $1.4 billion in outflows in March and April, according to data from Refinitiv. But inflows ticked back up to $245 million in May.

What changed? First, there are signs that the Chinese government may be close to ending an effort to rein in private companies in the tech sector, including ride-sharing firm Didi, as the economy slows down.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Beijing’s cybersecurity review of Didi, launched last year, was about to wrap up. The move could allow Didi to return to app stores in mainland China as soon as this week, rejuvenating its business.

Shares of Didi in New York skyrocketed 24% on Monday and are up another 5% in premarket trading on Tuesday. Alibaba and both rose more than 6% on Monday.

Second, Shanghai has lifted many Covid restrictions, feeding hopes that economic growth could be revived soon. The financial hub ended its two-month lockdown last week, allowing most of its 25 million residents to leave their communities — though some neighborhoods where cases have been recently detected remain sealed off.

Third, investors are obsessed with value right now — and stocks in China look very cheap. After experiencing a sharp sell-off, their price as a multiple of future earnings is very low, especially compared to stocks in the United States.

“I suspect that investors are now being overly cautious, which I believe has created an interesting entry point for what I think will become an important part of global equity benchmarks over the coming decades,” Paul Jackson, Invesco’s global head of asset allocation research, told clients last week.

Traders hunting for their next opportunity are eager, but still proceeding with caution. China’s economy remains in a delicate spot. Retail sales plunged 11.1% in April from a year ago, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized that he plans to stick with his “zero Covid” approach. Bond funds continued to experience heavy outflows in May.

There are also longer-term worries about the relationship between China and the United States and tensions over Taiwan, which have stoked fears that Beijing could be hit with tough financial penalties like the kind used to target the Kremlin.

“Leaving aside concerns about the current economic cycle, many worries are being expressed about the risk of sanctions as a result of geopolitical tensions,” Jackson said.

For now, though, some investors appear to be comfortable enough to slowly start boosting their exposure.

Elon Musk threatens to walk away from Twitter deal

Elon Musk has indicated for weeks that he may be suffering buyer’s remorse following his takeover offer for Twitter.

On Monday, he issued his most direct threat yet to walk away from the deal, openly accusing the social media company of breaching the merger agreement by not providing the data he has requested on spam and fake accounts.

In a letter to Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, Musk alleged that Twitter is “actively resisting and thwarting his information rights.”

“This is a clear material breach of Twitter’s obligations under the merger agreement and Mr. Musk reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement,” an attorney representing Musk wrote to the company.

Musk has demanded that Twitter turn over info about its testing methodologies to support claims that bots and fake accounts constitute less than 5% of the platform’s active user base, a figure the company has consistently stated for years in boilerplate public disclosures. Musk has also requested an independent assessment.

Investor insight: Shares of Twitter shed 1.5% on Monday, closing at $39.56. That’s well below Musk’s takeover offer of $54.20 per share, highlighting investor skepticism about the deal going through.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has stood by his company’s longtime spam metric. In a statement Monday, the company said: “Twitter has and will continue to cooperatively share information with Mr. Musk to consummate the transaction in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement.”

My thought bubble: It wouldn’t be easy for Musk to bail at this point. He probably just wants a better deal. Social media stocks have been battered this year, and Musk is likely now worried he’s overpaying. But will the tactic work?

Why solar industry stocks just rallied

The Biden administration is taking steps to jumpstart the country’s solar industry, and investors are taking notice.

The White House announced Monday that it would suspend tariffs on solar cells and modules from Southeast Asia for two years to make sure the country can continue to generate enough electricity without disruption. It also announced new assistance for domestic manufacturers.

“As droughts cripple the West and Russia’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine have placed increasing strains on America’s energy market, preventing disruptions to the electric power system, diversifying our energy sources and responding to the climate crisis have never been more urgent,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

Wall Street hailed the move. The Invesco Solar ETF climbed more than 4% on Monday. Sunrun and Sunnova Energy International both popped 6%.

The solar sector had already been staging a comeback, at least among investors. After dropping 15% in April, solar shares rose almost 11% in May.

But the action from the White House provides greater clarity. Some US solar installers and trade associations had said the threat of tariffs was having a chilling impact on the industry. Others said the administration should be cracking down on panels and parts imported from Southeast Asia that utilize heavily subsidized components from China, impeding competition.

Up next

J.M. Smucker reports results before US markets open.

Also today: US consumer credit data for April arrives at 3 p.m. ET.

Coming tomorrow: The latest policy decision from the Reserve Bank of India.

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