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People walk past an electronic board displaying the Hang Seng Index on November 29. Photo: EPA-EFE

Hang Seng loses US$220 billion in November pullback as Omicron, Macau gambling crackdown add to Chinese tech earnings woes

  • Hang Seng Index fell for a third day to a 14-month low as Omicron sapped risk appetite while a sell-off in Macau casino operators prolonged
  • An improvement in official Chinese manufacturing data failed to shore up sentiment amid growing Covid-19 infection cases sparked by the new variant
Hong Kong stocks fell for a third day to the lowest level in 14 months amid concerns the Omicron coronavirus variant will derail global economic recovery. An improvement in Chinese manufacturing data failed to shore up sentiment.

The Hang Seng Index retreated 1.1 per cent to 23,591.68 at the close of Tuesday trading. The benchmark slid 7.7 per cent this month to a level not seen since September last year, erasing US$220 billion of market value from its members. The Hang Seng Tech Index slipped 1 .2 per cent while the Shanghai Composite Index was little changed.

Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings and Meituan declined 0.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent, pacing index losers, following a poor third-quarter earnings reports. China Resources Land and Mengniu Dairy both declined by at least 4.8 per cent.

Investors reduced risk-taking as the new Covid-19 variant triggered a surge in global infection cases. Countries including Japan, Britain and the US have imposed travel curbs while Hong Kong tightened entry rules for high-risk countries with reported infections.

“A new, highly contagious, virus strain could trigger growth downgrades, worsen risk sentiment,” BlackRock strategists said in a note to clients on November 29. “We still favour equities for now but would change our stance if vaccines or treatments were to prove futile.”

Global banks and financial institutions have been weighing its impact on markets, with JPMorgan Asset Management seeing the Omicron variant as a “bump in the road to recovery.” Investors may view any continued sell-off as a buying opportunity, Invesco said.


What do we know about the new coronavirus variant Omicron?

What do we know about the new coronavirus variant Omicron?
Elsewhere, manufacturing in China expanded slightly in November, with the official purchasing managers’ index rising to 50.1 from 49.2 in October, the statistics bureau said on Tuesday. The index was expected to increase to 49.7, according to economists tracked by Bloomberg.
Sands China, MGM China and Galaxy Entertainment retreated 2.3 per cent to 5 per cent. The losses added to a US$4.8 billion rout on Monday in Macau casino stocks amid fears over widening industry crackdown.

Macau’s largest casino junket operator Suncity Group said its controlling shareholder Alvin Chau Cheok-wa offered to step down as chairman and executive director, following his arrest over the weekend. Its shares sank 48 per cent to HK$0.13.

In Asia, major markets were mixed. Australian stocks climbed and markets in South Korea and Japan declined. US equities rose overnight as President Joe Biden said the Omicron variant would not lead to lockdowns.