Why Wall Street underestimated coronavirus concerns

New York (CNN Business)Coronavirus jitters have paralyzed investors around the world. Chinese stocks might actually be close to bottoming out even as the disease spreads to other countries, sparking global pandemic and market correction fears.

Some investors are betting on a big comeback for Chinese companies — despite worries about the Chinese economy being in paralysis due to the coronavirus.
“The coronavirus will wind up being the bottom for China. I realize this sounds like it’s coming out of left field. But this outbreak could be occurring at the end of the Chinese bear market,” said Mark Galasiewski, chief strategist of the Asia-Pacific region for Elliott Wave International.

    The Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index are both down this year and might be due for a comeback, especially since valuations for Chinese stocks are not as high as they are for US companies in the S&P 500.
    “It’s hard to make the case that an investor should dive further into parts of the global stock market that are overextended. Over the next five to 10 years, China and other emerging markets look more attractive than developed markets,” said Michael Sheldon, chief investment officer at RDM Financial Group at Hightower.


    Galasiewski also pointed out that some Chinese stocks are already starting to awaken from their slumber. The Shenzhen Composite, kind of like the Nasdaq of China since it is home to many startup tech firms, is up nearly 10% this year.
    Galasiewski thinks that top Chinese tech firms — companies like Baidu (BIDU), Alibaba (BABA) and Tencent (TCEHY) — are good values that have held up relatively well during the coronavirus sell-off.
    He argues that this trio, which traders have dubbed the BAT stocks, are better bargains than the US high tech FAANG stocks — Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL).
    Investors are running for cover. Can stocks bounce back?
    The coronavrius outbreak may also give a boost to homegrown Chinese drugmakers, according to Brad Loncar, CEO of Loncar Investments and creator of the Loncar China BioPharma ETF (CHNA).
    “Before the coronavirus outbreak, China is starting to have a biotech boom. Government officials want to upgrade the economy to higher-value sectors like pharmaceuticals and not just focus on generic drugs,” Loncar said in an interview with CNN Business.
    “Now China needs to modernize medicine even further and there will be a bigger focus on that which will accelerate because of the coronavirus,” Loncar added.
    Loncar pointed to three top Chinese drug stocks he likes that trade in the United States.
    Zai Lab (ZLAB) is a leader in licensing drugs in China. BeiGene (BGNE) has developed a cancer drug that has gotten approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. It is also benefiting from a big investment from biotech giant Amgen (AMGN), which owns more than 20% of BeiGene. And Hutchison China MediTech (HCM) has a cancer drug that was the first to be entirely invented, developed and approved for use in China.

    Can the People’s Bank of China save the day?

    It may seem counterintuitive. But the coronavirus outbreak could spark an eventual big boom in major Chinese stocks as the People’s Bank of China seems ready to take whatever steps necessary to keep the economy from slowing more dramatically.
    “Coming into 2018, China was attempting to slow its economy with tightening before it was surprised by the trade war,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company.
    “Now, central bankers are attempting to stimulate the economy. So there is an opportunity for Chinese stocks to do better in the future,” he added.
    The numbers coming out of China will probably not look good for the first quarter. But that may only increase the willingness of Chinese officials to act more aggressively in order to prevent the downturn from getting worse.
    “It’s going to be ugly in China this quarter before things get back to normal. But policy makers will be throwing the kitchen sink at the problem and that should support the economy,” said Adam Phillips, director of portfolio strategy for EP Wealth Advisors.

      Still, not everyone is convinced that central banks can stop what is, at its heart, a health crisis and not an economic one. So he thinks investors should be wary of placing too much hope in the PBOC, Fed or other monetary officials.
      “The threat is biological. Central bankers may not have a solution,” said David Jilek, chief investment strategist with Gateway Investment Advisors.
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