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China Credit Rating Downgraded: ETFs in Focus

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In a recent development, S&P Global ratings downgraded China’s sovereign rating by one notch to A+ from AA- and revised its outlook to stable from negative. This was the second such rating cut by a major institution. In May, Moody’s cut China’s credit rating to A1 from Aa3.
 
In a separate development, the S&P also downgraded Hong Kong’s credit rating to AA from AAA, citing high correlation between the economies. Moreover, China’s short-term rating was also downgraded to A1 from A1+.
 
This introduces massive uncertainty for the Chinese economy which is just weeks away from a leadership reshuffle. Although the S&P forecasts the debt level to grow in the near term, it expects China’s policies on reining in debt to play out in the medium term. 
 
Per an Economic Times article citing Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research, government debt was around 1.8 times the GDP in 2015. Moreover, the S&P added that in the event of a default on external debt by the Chinese government, three foreign banks operating in China would experience a domino effect and will likely fall prey to default. 
 
Economic Data 
 
China’s industrial output grew 6.0% year over year in August compared with 6.4% in July, and below the Reuters’ forecast of 6.6%. Moreover, retail sales grew 10.1% year over year in August compared with 10.4% in July and below Reuters’ forecast of 10.5%. Fixed-asset investment, a major growth driver for the Chinese economy, increased 7.8% in the January-August period compared with 8.3% in the January-July period (read: China's Inflation Exceeds Expectations: ETFs in Focus).
 
China’s GDP has been growing at a rapid pace. It increased 6.9% year over year in the second quarter of 2017, same as the first quarter. China reported a strong first half of 2017 but recent data showed signs of fading GDP. Although high credit growth has supported GDP growth, it has increased financial risks, per the S&P.
 
Geopolitical Risks
 
The Chinese economy is subject to prevailing geopolitical risks. North Korea conducted its seventh nuclear test, an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile that flew over Japan, on Sep 14, 2017. In response to continuous missile tests, President Donald Trump, in his maiden UN General Assembly speech, threatened to totally destroy North Korea.
 
In addition to the UN sanctions on North Korea passed on Sep 11, the United States imposed harsh fresh financial sanctions on North Korea on Sep 21. In the words of Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, "Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or North Korea, but not both.”
 
Per Reuters, People's Bank of China informed Chinese banks to adhere to UN sanctions against North Korea. Since 90% of North Korea’s trade is with China, these sanctions are expected to greatly impact the latter (read: ETFs to Lose If Trump Bans Trade With North Korean Partners).
 
Let us now discuss a few ETFs focused on providing exposure to the Chinese economy (see all Asia-Pacific Emerging ETFs here). 
 
iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI - Free Report)
 
This fund seeks to provide exposure to Chinese equities, serving as a pure play on the economy.
 
It has AUM of $3.54 billion and is a relatively expensive bet as it charges a fee of 74 basis points a year. From a sector look, Financials, Energy and Telecommunication Services are the top three allocations of the fund, with 51.6%, 10.9% and 9.7% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). From an individual holding perspective, Tencent Holdings Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are the top three allocations of the fund, with 9.4%, 8.6% and 7.5% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). The fund has returned 28.4% year to date and 15.9% in a year (as of Sep 21, 2017). FXI currently has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 (Hold) with a Medium risk outlook.
 
iShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI - Free Report)
 
This ETF is another such option to play the BRIC nation.
 
It has AUM of $2.61 billion and charges a fee of 64 basis points a year. From a sector look, Information Technology, Financials and Consumer Discretionary are the top three allocations of the fund, with 40.0%, 22.2% and 10.3% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). From an individual holding perspective, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Alibaba Group Holding ADR and China Construction Bank Corp. are the top three allocations of the fund, with 16.5%, 13.3% and 4.7% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). The fund has returned 45.5% year to date and 28.9% in a year (as of Sep 21, 2017). MCHI currently has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 with a Medium risk outlook.
 
SPDR S&P China ETF (GXC - Free Report)
 
This fund has AUM of $1.06 billion and charges a fee of 59 basis points a year. From a sector look, Information Technology, Financials and Consumer Discretionary are the top three allocations of the fund, with 35.4%, 21.6% and 11.0% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). From an individual holding perspective, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Alibaba Group Holding ADR and China Construction Bank Corporation are the top three allocations of the fund, with 13.5%, 11.3%, and 4.9% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). The fund has returned 43.9% year to date and 27.6% in a year (as of Sep 21, 2017). GXC currently has a Zacks ETF Rank #1 (Strong Buy) with a Medium risk outlook.
 
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In a recent development, S&P Global ratings downgraded China’s sovereign rating by one notch to A+ from AA- and revised its outlook to stable from negative. This was the second such rating cut by a major institution. In May, Moody’s cut China’s credit rating to A1 from Aa3.
In a separate development, the S&P also downgraded Hong Kong’s credit rating to AA from AAA, citing high correlation between the economies. Moreover, China’s short-term rating was also downgraded to A1 from A1+.
This introduces massive uncertainty for the Chinese economy which is just weeks away from a leadership reshuffle. Although the S&P forecasts the debt level to grow in the near term, it expects China’s policies on reining in debt to play out in the medium term. 
Per an Economic Times article citing Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research, government debt was around 1.8 times the GDP in 2015. Moreover, the S&P added that in the event of a default on external debt by the Chinese government, three foreign banks operating in China would experience a domino effect and will likely fall prey to default. 
Economic Data 
China’s industrial output grew 6.0% year over year in August compared with 6.4% in July, and below the Reuters’ forecast of 6.6%. Moreover, retail sales grew 10.1% year over year in August compared with 10.4% in July and below Reuters’ forecast of 10.5%. Fixed-asset investment, a major growth driver for the Chinese economy, increased 7.8% in the January-August period compared with 8.3% in the January-July period (read: China's Inflation Exceeds Expectations: ETFs in Focus).
China’s GDP has been growing at a rapid pace. It increased 6.9% year over year in the second quarter of 2017, same as the first quarter. China reported a strong first half of 2017 but recent data showed signs of fading GDP. Although high credit growth has supported GDP growth, it has increased financial risks, per the S&P.
Geopolitical Risks
The Chinese economy is subject to prevailing geopolitical risks. North Korea conducted its seventh nuclear test, an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile that flew over Japan, on Sep 14, 2017. In response to continuous missile tests, President Donald Trump, in his maiden UN General Assembly speech, threatened to totally destroy North Korea.
In addition to the UN sanctions on North Korea passed on Sep 11, the United States imposed harsh fresh financial sanctions on North Korea on Sep 21. In the words of Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, "Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or North Korea, but not both.”
Per Reuters, People's Bank of China informed Chinese banks to adhere to UN sanctions against North Korea. Since 90% of North Korea’s trade is with China, these sanctions are expected to greatly impact the latter (read: ETFs to Lose If Trump Bans Trade With North Korean Partners).
Let us now discuss a few ETFs focused on providing exposure to the Chinese economy (see all Asia-Pacific Emerging ETFs here). 
iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI - Free Report)
This fund seeks to provide exposure to Chinese equities, serving as a pure play on the economy.
It has AUM of $3.54 billion and is a relatively expensive bet as it charges a fee of 74 basis points a year. From a sector look, Financials, Energy and Telecommunication Services are the top three allocations of the fund, with 51.6%, 10.9% and 9.7% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). From an individual holding perspective, Tencent Holdings Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are the top three allocations of the fund, with 9.4%, 8.6% and 7.5% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). The fund has returned 28.4% year to date and 15.9% in a year (as of Sep 21, 2017). FXI currently has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 (Hold) with a Medium risk outlook.
iShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI - Free Report)
This ETF is another such option to play the BRIC nation.
It has AUM of $2.61 billion and charges a fee of 64 basis points a year. From a sector look, Information Technology, Financials and Consumer Discretionary are the top three allocations of the fund, with 40.0%, 22.2% and 10.3% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). From an individual holding perspective, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Alibaba Group Holding ADR and China Construction Bank Corp. are the top three allocations of the fund, with 16.5%, 13.3% and 4.7% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). The fund has returned 45.5% year to date and 28.9% in a year (as of Sep 21, 2017). MCHI currently has a Zacks ETF Rank #3 with a Medium risk outlook.
SPDR S&P China ETF (GXC - Free Report)
This fund has AUM of $1.06 billion and charges a fee of 59 basis points a year. From a sector look, Information Technology, Financials and Consumer Discretionary are the top three allocations of the fund, with 35.4%, 21.6% and 11.0% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). From an individual holding perspective, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Alibaba Group Holding ADR and China Construction Bank Corporation are the top three allocations of the fund, with 13.5%, 11.3%, and 4.9% exposure, respectively (as of Sep 20, 2017). The fund has returned 43.9% year to date and 27.6% in a year (as of Sep 21, 2017). GXC currently has a Zacks ETF Rank #1 (Strong Buy) with a Medium risk outlook.
Want key ETF info delivered straight to your inbox?
 
Zacks’ free Fund Newsletter will brief you on top news and analysis, as well as top-performing ETFs, each week. Get it free >>
 
 
 
 
 
 



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