AFP / Hong Kong
Asian markets sank on Monday on fears about contagion from a possible collapse of teetering property giant China Evergrande, while sentiment was also dragged by the Federal Reserve’s plans to taper monetary policy, surging Delta infections and signs of weakness in the global recovery.
Hong Kong again led the losses with Evergrande due to pay interest on some of its loans and bonds this week, with observers expecting it to default.
Uncertainty about the future of the company, which is drowning in debts of more than $300bn, has shattered confidence on trading floors, with property companies and banks in Hong Kong taking the brunt of the selling.
Hong Kong shed 3.3%, with Evergrande down almost 19% briefly before ending 10% off.
New World Development dived 12.3% and Henderson Land tanked 13.2%.
The Hang Seng Property Index dropped more than 6%, its worst performance since May 2020.
Analyst Philip Tse, of BOCOM International Holdings, warned “there will be further downside” unless leaders give a clear signal on Evergrande or ease up on their clampdown on the real estate sector.
Despite the growing crisis, the government has yet to step in to prevent Evergrande from going under.
Analysts say that while leaders are looking to curb excessive risk-taking, they will probably work to prevent the issue from becoming unmanageable.
“The central government’s priority of social stability makes restructuring likely with haircuts for debt holders, but spillovers to other listed property developers means there will likely be a real economy impact on the real estate sector,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland. “To what extent Evergrande slows the growth momentum remains unclear.”
The selling was mirrored elsewhere in Asia.
Sydney was down more than 2%, with miners also being hammered by a plunge in iron ore prices, while Singapore, Wellington, Mumbai, Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta were also well down.
Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei were closed for holidays.
The Fed’s policy meeting this week is being closely followed, with some experts predicting it could set a timetable for winding in its vast bond-buying programme put in place last year to support the economy and equity markets.
Officials have flagged that they will begin tapering by the end of the year in order to keep a lid on inflation, though it is yet to indicate by how much and from when.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as several other central banks around the world also prepare to make decisions, with many now considering tightening.
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