(Bloomberg) — Chinese stocks rallied for the second day as traders responded to growing speculation that authorities are preparing for a gradual loosening of harsh Covid restrictions.
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The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index gained as much as 3.2%, reversing earlier losses, adding to a 5.5% surge in the previous session. Reopening stocks including vaccine makers, airlines and casino shares jumped, with CanSino Biologics Inc. up as much as 61% in Hong Kong. The Hang Seng Index advanced as much as 2.7%.
The market frenzy was first triggered Tuesday by unverified social media posts circulating online that a committee was being formed to assess ways to exit Covid Zero. Another unconfirmed document made its rounds on Wednesday, mentioning that China is expected to hold a meeting on Friday to announce a slew of changes including shortening mandatory quarantine.
Beijing’s stringent Covid restrictions have been the biggest concern for investors, making the market sensitive to the slightest signs of a change in the policy. Covid curbs and lockdowns have pushed China stock measures to among the world’s worst this year, with last month’s Communist Party congress dashing hopes of an imminent reopening.
“It’s hard to tell whether the rumors are true or not to be honest. But at least this time there’s a mention of timing of this Friday,” said Willer Chen, an analyst at Forsyth Barr Asia Ltd. “The market may continue the rebound till Friday or next Monday.”
President Xi Jinping defended his zero-tolerance approach to Covid during last month’s leadership gathering and promoted his loyalists to top posts. This gesture dismayed some investors who had been positioning for a reopening signal from the political event, triggering an intense selloff.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he’s “not aware” of a committee to assess Covid Zero exit scenarios, which helped pare stock gains near the market close.
China’s CSI 300 Index advanced nearly 2%, following a 3.6% gain on Tuesday.
“People may have misunderstood when they see the headline that it is about completely opening up, but in our view it is quite unlikely for China to completely abandon Zero Covid,” said Zerlina Zeng, senior credit analyst at CreditSights. “It is politically sensitive to do away with it because during the party congress, the rhetoric around Zero Covid has been so strong.”
–With assistance from Charlotte Yang, Wenjin Lv, Lorretta Chen, Mengchen Lu, Yuling Yang and John Cheng.
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