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China’s finance minister Lou Jiwei who said growth in China’s fiscal income will slow in future, but the country still has room to increase government debt. Photo: Reuters
China’s finance minister Lou Jiwei who said growth in China’s fiscal income will slow in future, but the country still has room to increase government debt. Photo: Reuters

China’s small-cap stocks rise, yuan weakens after finance ministry announcements

Chinese small-cap stocks rallied after Premier Li Keqiang failed to mention a planned shift to a more market-based system for IPOs

Hong Kong: For investors reacting to China’s annual policy road-map, it’s what authorities didn’t say that mattered most.

Chinese small-cap stocks rallied after Premier Li Keqiang failed to mention a planned shift to a more market-based system for initial public offerings, a reform seen luring funds from existing equities. The yuan snapped a four-day gain after policy makers refrained from announcing any support measures. While Li’s pledge to make development a top priority boosted transport and infrastructure shares, the nation’s sovereign bonds fell on concern the government will boost borrowing to back the economy.

Li outlined an economic growth target of 6.5% to 7% for 2016, with 6.5% pegged as the baseline through 2020. To reach the target, the government said it raised its money supply expansion target and will permit a record high deficit. China’s plan to streamline rules for IPOs is unlikely to be implemented this year, according to a person familiar with the situation. Data due Monday are forecast to show foreign- exchange reserves declined in February as the nation backed the yuan.

Investors consider the delay to new IPO rules as “good news," said Jackson Wong, associate director at Huarong International Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. “They announced the GDP target, which was rather a bit worrying because they said 6.5% to 7%, which means it might drop to 6.5%. But the market is still ignoring that."

The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.8% to 2,897.34 at the close. The gauge climbed 3.9% last week after China intervened to support its stock market on Friday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index climbed 1% as of 3:10 p.m. in Hong Kong.

The ChiNext small-cap index advanced 2.4%. Officials drafting Li’s address decided not to mention the new IPO system because they judged it unlikely to be realized in 2016, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the discussions were private. Speculation the registration system would begin with the small-cap board triggered a 7.6% plunge in the index on 25 February.

Commodity and industrial companies also rose. Citic Heavy Industries Co. advanced 2.6% in Shanghai. China Communications Construction Co. rallied 4.6% to its highest level this year in Hong Kong.

China’s top economic planning body launched a three-year action plan to develop major transportation infrastructure, and a draft document of the country’s next five-year economic plan pledged to build at least 50 new airports by 2020. Total fixed asset investment is projected to increase by 10.5% this year.

Fiscal shortfall

The yield on government notes due January 2026 rose two basis points to 2.94%, the highest level since 6 February. The nation’s fiscal shortfall is projected to widen to a record 3% of gross domestic product this year from 2.3% last year, according to a report from the Ministry of Finance.

The bigger fiscal deficit ratio will ensure some key spending, finance minister Lou Jiwei said at a conference in Beijing, adding that the move aims to support the economy. The nation will increase infrastructure spending on big, cross- regional projects, he said.

“The government is willing to do more on fiscal, as well as they’re very clear on their monetary easing bias," said Tony Chu, a Hong Kong-based money manager at RS Investment Management, which oversees about $18 billion. “People are generally more comfortable about China being able to manage their currency well."

Yuan weakens

The currency fell 0.1% to 6.5147 a dollar, ignoring the strongest central bank fixing in two months, according to China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFTC) prices. The offshore yuan traded in Hong Kong dropped 0.16% to 6.5133. The PBoC raised the currency fixing by 0.26% to 6.5113.

The currency will remain stable against a basket of exchange rates, People’s Bank of China (PBoC) deputy governor Yi Gang said on Sunday, using a line that has been repeated by several officials over the past few months.

“This is typical China style, they are not being inconsistent," said Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore. “The government thinks the market is too demanding. It’s in their interest to follow a path of gradual reform and re-anchor market expectations, and if that means repeating references to the basket of currencies or keeping the currency stable, then so be it."

State support

China’s foreign- exchange reserves declined to $3.2 trillion in February. The stockpile includes the euro, yen, pound and developing nations’ assets, in addition to US dollars, the PBoC’s Yi said over the weekend. This is the first time a central bank official disclosed the sources of non-dollar assets in the stockpile.

Financial and property shares declined in Shanghai. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. halted a three-day winning streak, falling 0.5%. Developer Gemdale Corp. dropped 1.7%.

State-backed funds bought primarily bank shares on Friday, while some local branches of the securities regulator asked listed companies, mutual funds and brokerages to stabilize the market during the meetings, according to people who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. Authorities have been known to intervene before key national events, with government funds stepping in to boost share prices last August before a military parade.

A gauge of Shanghai property stocks dropped 0.3% for the biggest loss among industry groups. Chinese regulators plan to impose new rules to end the practice of homebuyers taking out loans to cover down-payments, as they step up scrutiny of financing risk in the property market, according to different people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg

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