Bulls beware. Adam Cheng Siu-chow is coming to a cinema near you.
The Hong Kong actor, whose every new television drama is said to herald a stock market crash, is returning to the big screen with a new release on April 4. And stock investors are scared stiff.
"It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many locals, especially retail investors, are very superstitious," said Ben Kwong Man-bun, chief operating officer at KGI Asia. "If everyone buys into this negative association and starts selling in panic, a sharp fall is inevitable."
The new movie, Saving General Yang, is based on the legendary generals of the famed Yang family during the early years of the Northern Song dynasty. Cheng plays the senior General Yang, who fought a battle to defend the Song's borders from foreign invaders.
The 66-year-old Cheng's tryst with infamy began in 1992, when TVB launched a drama series called The Greed of Man. Cheng played the role of Ting Hai, an actor who makes a killing by short-selling derivatives and stocks in a bear market. The Hang Seng Index fell up to 13 per cent while the show was on.
His bad influence on the index has been dubbed the "Ting Hai effect" since, and has proven largely true over the past decade. Cheng has appeared in some 17 television series since 1992. The market fell while 11 of them were on air.
In 1997, when another series, Legend of Yung Ching , was running, the index fell below 10,000 points. TVB also happened to launch a new Cheng series in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis erupted, and in 2000, when the technology bubble burst.
Cheng could be the rare actor who makes even stocks weep. In a report last year, CLSA said the more tragic his television series were, the worse the market did.
But strategists see an opportunity in the trouble that Cheng is reputed to stir up. This, they are advocating, could be a good time for investors to cash out as fresh worries over the euro zone and liquidity outflow take root.
"The market sentiment is already weak and Adam Cheng's new play might be a perfect selling excuse," said Kenny Tang Sing-hing, general manager of the securities business division of AMTD Financial Planning. "China's key meetings in March failed to bring any joy, and earnings results are a bit disappointing. The market is already very frustrated."
The Hang Seng Index has been the first quarter's worst performer among the stock markets in developed economies, with the exception of Italy. At 22,299.63 points, the index has lost 1.6 per cent so far this year.
Hong Kong stocks, in fact, had a good run from September, riding the strong tide of incoming liquidity. But with hot money flowing back to the US market as the economy there picks up and the US dollar strengthens, the local index has taken a hit.
Tang said there was a chance the gauge could fall back to around 21,500 until it found any support.
Saving General Yang is fine, but who will save the market?