Looming risks subdue Asia stock investors after stellar quarter

Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:27am EDT
 
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By Nichola Saminather

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Investors' enthusiasm for Asian stocks is waning as a raft of political and economic risks takes the shine off the best first-quarter returns in 26 years.

That period of strong gains could put Asian equities in the firing line for a sell-off, as funds investing in the region play it a lot safer than they were a few months ago on concerns that economic and business cycles may have peaked.

Graphic: reut.rs/2oFkb6A

"Most of the positive news may be priced in already. But at the same time, if we’re seeing disappointments, this could be a trigger for more profit taking," said Tuan Huynh, Asia Pacific chief investment officer at Deutsche Bank Wealth Management, who now recommends an underweight exposure to Asian equities from overweight at the start of 2017.

“Earnings season in the U.S. and political events like elections in Europe may bring negative surprises that could lead to corrections," he said.

The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index .MIAX00000PUS returned 12.8 percent in the first three months of 2017, the best first-quarter performance since 1991, as almost $17 billion of funds flowed into the region, excluding China and Malaysia.

But they've returned a pittance since then, and flows slowed to only $563 million in April through the 19th, according to Thomson Reuters data, as risks grew, including nuclear threats from North Korea, a series of elections in Europe and delays in fiscal stimulus and protectionist rhetoric from the United States.

Business activity in Asia, which had been above trend and improving in the second half of 2016 and earlier this year, is now above trend but decelerating, Goldman Sachs' Chief Asia Pacific Equity Strategist Timothy Moe said in a podcast this month.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO: People walk past a screen showing stock market prices inside a brokerage in Taipei, Taiwan, August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang