Equity bulls holding the line in 2017 Asia strategy predictions

An Indian pedestrian speaking on a phone while walking by stock prices on a digital broadcast on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai.
An Indian pedestrian speaking on a phone while walking by stock prices on a digital broadcast on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Political chaos, subzero interest rates and smartphone explosions may have rocked Asian equities in the last 12 months, but most markets in Asia are still in the black. Strategists predict growth in regional equity markets next year even with the same macroeconomic uncertainty stirring in the background.

Asian equities may see a short-term spike alongside United States stocks due to public spending after President-elect Donald Trump enters office. However, strategists expect higher inflation and accelerated tightening after this, which coupled with a stronger dollar and potential US trade protectionism heightens risk in Asia. Within the region, China's growth has stabilized since mid-2016 on infrastructure investments and is likely to continue even as the yuan depreciates.

"If you invested in the market at the beginning of 2016, closed your eyes and didn't look at it the entire year, you would have thought it was a good year where global events such as the US elections and Brexit didn't happen," Arthur Kwong, head of Asia Pacific equities at BNP Paribas Investment Partners said in Hong Kong. The firm expects Asia's growth rate to significantly outpace that of many global economies.

Listed below are median targets for benchmark indexes in major markets from Japan to India based on Bloomberg surveys. Separate calculations done by Bloomberg are based on analyst price targets of member stocks in the indexes.

Japan

The median target of seven analysts and investors for the Topix index at the end of 2017 is 1,600, about 4 per cent above its current level; Bloomberg calculations show a price target of 1,573.96 Topix closed at 1,540.25 on Tuesday; index is down 0.5 percent for 2016 even after climbing back to a bull market last month Japanese stocks are likely to receive a further boost from the global economic environment, riding on the wave of optimism about the US economy under Mr Trump, strategists at Daiwa SB Investments and Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management said. The second half of the year might prove more challenging, as the market gets more clarity on Mr Trump's policies, said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Fujiwara sees Japanese stocks entering a more "lackluster phase" if the Fed rushes its rate hikes.

Greater China

Strategists surveyed see Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index at a median of 25,000 and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index at 11,000, for gains of up to 13 per cent from current levels; for the Shanghai Composite Index, they see a more than 20 per cent advance to 3,800, following a slump of more than 10 per cent this year. While the Chinese market may begin with a slow start, earnings growth is likely to recover to the highest in four years on firmer inflation, Goldman Sachs China equity strategist Kinger Lau wrote in a note.

Energy is the preferred sector by most strategists surveyed; banking, insurance and consumer-discretionary stocks expected to do better in 2017; telecommunications and utilities to underperform, analysts including those from Macquarie and Citigroup said. Market fears in the wake of yuan weakness and property curbs are "exaggerated" as domestic resilience should outweigh trade risks next year, Citi strategists said

According to Bloomberg calculations, the price target for Taiwan's Taiex Index is 9,839.63, representing a gain of almost 5 per cent from current levels.

India

India is "looking attractive" and is poised for a double-digit return in 2017, said Morgan Stanley strategists, who see the Sensex at 30,000 by next December Benchmark is up 2.2 per cent this year, to about 26,700 Morgan Stanley is positive on consumer-discretionary, financials, technology; underweight staples, energy, industrials, telecoms and utilities/shares have priced in concerns about economic growth and earnings, said BNP Paribas, which sees India as a "core" overweight.

The price target for the Sensex is 30,798.11, an upside of 15 per cent from current levels, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Korea

The median target on the Kospi index for the end of 2017 is 2,220, according to seven strategists surveyed; that compares to a Bloomberg calculation of 2,472.14, which would be a strong 21 per cent rally from Tuesday's close Limited leadership after the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye could hurt mid- to long-term economic growth potential, as uncertainty is expected to continue for at least half a year, Macquarie analysts wrote in a strategy note An increase in US protectionism against Korean exports is another key risk that would impact Korean stocks, said Standard Chartered.

Asean

Strategists see geopolitical risks and a "tougher environment" in 2017 after a year in which Southeast Asia's emerging markets were buffeted by interest-rate concerns. Citi has a target of 710 for MSCI Southeast Asia Index; the gauge is currently at about 690 Indonesia may see a pickup in growth driven by commodities, BNP Paribas strategist Manishi Raychaudhuri wrote in a report; weak government spending and low investment growth remain near-term concerns. Malaysia is vulnerable to potential trade protectionism under a Trump administration due to its small domestic market, Macquarie said; the country is rated underweight at four banks. Geopolitical uncertainty is likely to limit foreign participation in the Philippines, Morgan Stanley said as it downgraded the market to underweight; domestic consumption and private investment are still likely to drive growth, Macquarie and Nomura said Singapore's slowing economic growth is likely to continue in 2017. Thailand's private sector is likely to see elevated household debt and low capacity utilization, Macquarie strategist Alastair Macdonald said.