Hong Kong stocks slide on rate-cut setback, Taiwanese firms dip post-election

At the midday break, the Hang Seng Index dropped 0.2% to 16,219.55, following a 1.8% decline the previous week. The Shanghai Composite Index increased by 0.4% while the Tech Index fell by 1.8%.

After China’s central bank maintained a key policy lending rate unchanged for a fifth consecutive month, crushing some economists’ bets on policy easing to support the economy, Hong Kong stocks fell, compounding two weeks of losses.

At the midday break, the Hang Seng Index dropped 0.2% to 16,219.55, following a 1.8% decline the previous week. The Shanghai Composite Index increased by 0.4% while the Tech Index fell by 1.8%.

A major blow came to the tech giant Baidu, which fell 10% to HK$102.10 after it was revealed that Chinese military laboratories were testing an AI system based on the company’s large-language model, ErnieBot. This information created an unanticipated degree of uncertainty around Baidu’s future, which led to a stock sell-off.

Baidu’s collapse affected other major players in the market as a whole. Li Auto, a Chinese producer of electric vehicles, fell 3.7% to close at HK$121.50, while China Overseas Land and Development, a property developer, fell 2.5 per cent to close at HK$12.28. The e-commerce behemoths JD.com and Alibaba Group experienced decreases, with JD.com falling 1.7% to HK$96.60 and Alibaba falling 0.8% to HK$70.

The People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) decision to keep the one-year policy rate on medium-term lending facilities at 2.5% added to the already unsettling news surrounding Baidu. The market’s anticipation of a rate cut, stoked by an unexpected cut in August, was dashed by this move. The PBOC used the lending facility to inject a significant 216 billion yuan (US$30.2 billion) into the system despite the lack of a rate cut.

Speaking about the general mood of the market, Fang Yi, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities in Shanghai, said, “The market lacks the kind of catalysts that can significantly drive up stocks.” It is likely that the consolidation pattern will persist longer than anticipated. The city’s benchmark has dropped 4.7% in the first two weeks of the year, marking the worst start since 2016, when it fell 10% during the same time frame.

Reports showing mainland China’s consumer prices fell for the third consecutive month in December have further complicated the country’s economic situation. Furthermore, trade data did not instil confidence, with imports falling short of forecasts and exports surpassing consensus estimates.

Amid this market turbulence, distressed builder Logan Group managed to make headlines with an 8.3% jump to HK$0.65. The increase came after the business announced that it would trim its debt by up to US$3 billion as part of a comprehensive US$8 billion workout plan. Logan Group’s plan, which calls for repaying a shareholder loan and offshore debts over nine years with a combination of cash and new securities, has received approval from some creditors.

The results of the most recent presidential election in Taiwan, however, have a variety of ramifications. William Lai, the vice president, won, but his party’s majority in the legislature was lost. This result sparked questions about the party’s capacity to rule successfully. Concerns about tensions across the Taiwan Strait affected Taiwanese companies that traded in Hong Kong and mainland China, causing their shares to decline.

Renowned noodle maker Tingyi Holding saw a 2% decrease to HK$8.45 in Hong Kong. Foxconn Industrial Internet suffered a similar decline, with shares in Shanghai dropping 0.5% to 12.79 yuan. On the other hand, Taipei’s benchmark Taiex index recovered marginally, rising 0.5% after plunging 2.3% the week before.

Major Asian markets showed varying results while the Hong Kong market struggles with these issues. With the Nikkei 225 in Japan rising 1.1%, there was some positive news amidst the general market uncertainty. Conversely, the Kospi in South Korea fell 1.1%, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia barely moved.