Renminbi Depreciation and the Hong Kong Economy

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1 Thomas Shik Acting Chief Economist Renminbi Depreciation and the Hong Kong Economy If the recent weakness of the renminbi persists, it is likely to have a positive direct impact on the Hong Kong economy. The indirect impact, however, is harder to estimate. It may boost trade and hence economic growth. Tourists from mainland China may spend less, but net exports of travel services represented only 5.6% of Hong Kong s gross domestic product (GDP) in That being said, the further economic slowdown on the Mainland and the recent stock market correction have resulted in an observable increase in uncertainty as regards the Hong Kong economy. This has increased the downside risk to our forecast for Hong Kong s 2015 GDP growth, which currently stands at 2.5%. Sep/Oct 2015

2 The impact of the RMB depreciation On August 11, the People s Bank of China (PBOC) changed the way it sets the daily mid-rate for the renminbi (RMB) from which the currency is allowed to fluctuate up to 2% in either direction by referring to the closing rate of the interbank foreign exchange market on the previous day. The RMB dropped by about 3% against the US dollar (USD) in the two days immediately following the announcement but has since stabilised following an announcement by the PBOC on August 13 that there was no basis for the RMB to continue to depreciate (Exhibit 1). On retail sales If depreciation in the RMB persists, it is likely to be negative for Hong Kong retail sales as goods being sold to tourists from mainland China may become more expensive. For the first seven months of the year, Mainland tourists accounted for 78% of total visitor arrivals (Exhibit 2). In 2014, about 80% of tourist spending came from Mainland visitors (Exhibit 3). Retail sales only covers consumer spending on goods and does not include spending on services such as entertainment and transport. In this regard, tourist spending on shopping is included in retail sales, but tourist spending on entertainment, tours and similar items is not. Our calculations suggest that spending by Mainland visitors as covered by tourist spending and retail sales represented about 38% of Hong Kong s retail sales in 2014 (Exhibit 4). Exhibit 1: Renminbi Mid-rate & Spot Rates Exhibit 2: Tourist Arrivals 2

3 Exhibit 3: Tourist Spending for 2014 HKD mn Same-day visitor spending Total (1) 79,744 Mainland China (2) 76,076 % share 95% HKD mn Overnight visitor spending Total (3) 221,048 Mainland China (4) 166,027 % share 75% Overall visitor spending Total (1) + (3) 300,792 Mainland China (2) + (4) 242,103 % share 80% Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hang Seng Bank Exhibit 4: Mainland Tourists Spending & Retail Sales for 2014 HKD mn HKD mn Retail sales value 493,236 Overall visitor spending 300,792 - same-day vistor spending 79,744 - by Mainland tourists 76,076 - on shopping (included in retail sales) (1) 70,293 - overnight vistor spending 221,048 - by Mainland tourists 166,027 - on shopping (included in retail sales) (2) 119,270 Mainland tourists' spending as part of retail sales (1)+(2) 189,563 - % share 38% Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hang Seng Bank 3

4 If the RMB weakens by 5% in a year compared with the rate before the August 11 announcement and Mainland tourists cut their spending by the same percentage, then Hong Kong s retail sales will likely drop by 1.9 percentage points. In this regard, the direct impact of the RMB depreciation is modest. That said, local consumer sentiment and hence household consumption may be adversely affected by the reduction in spending by Mainland tourists and effect of this indirect impact is hard to estimate. On trade The RMB s persistent weakness may also influence the Hong Kong economy through the trade channel. 1 A weaker RMB may boost the Mainland s net exports, which, in turn, may lead to a rise in Hong Kong s re-exports from the Mainland but a decline in Hong Kong s domestic exports and re-exports to the Mainland. The net effect, while uncertain, is likely to be positive as Hong Kong s re-exports from the Mainland have been bigger in size than Hong Kong s total exports to the Mainland over recent years (Exhibit 5). The economic benefits would be even greater if we consider that the profit margins generated from re-exports from the Mainland are higher than those generated from re-exports to the Mainland. Data for the recent past is not available, but figures in previous years show that the former had consistently been more than double the latter and thus we can safely assume that this is still more or less true (Exhibit 6). Exhibit 5: Hong Kong s Trade with Mainland China Exhibit 6: Re-export Margins (by origin of country) % China Others Source: Census & Stat. Dept., HKMA, Hang Seng Bank 1 The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Quarterly Bulletin, June

5 Summary RMB depreciation may boost trade but dampen retail sales in Hong Kong. The former may contribute to faster gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the city, but the implication of the latter is ambiguous as Hong Kong imports most of its goods from abroad. In other words, Hong Kong s retail sales and imports of goods could both decline on the back of RMB depreciation. In the calculation of GDP, tourist spending is counted as net exports of travel services, which represented only 5.6% of GDP in 2014 (Exhibit 7). As such, the impact of the RMB s decline on GDP through tourist spending is likely to be small. Overall, therefore, RMB depreciation may have a positive direct impact on the Hong Kong economy. But we reiterate that the indirect impact is hard to estimate. For example, a fall in spending by Mainland visitors may hit local consumer confidence, and a decline in the value of RMB assets held by Hong Kong residents may dampen household consumption. Exhibit 7: Net Exports of Travel Services (% of GDP) % Hong Kong Economic Outlook In the month after the PBOC changed the way it sets the daily mid-rate for the RMB, the currency moved in a tight range of between 6.37 and 6.40 per USD, representing a fall of only 2.7 to 3.1%. Considering that a sharp depreciation is unlikely in the near term, such currency movements should not have a significant impact on the Hong Kong economy. 5

6 On the other hand, we have observed an increase in the downside risk to Hong Kong s economic growth arising from further economic slowdown on the Mainland and the recent stock market correction. Fixed-asset investment growth on the Mainland fell to a multi-year low of 10.9% in August. As Hong Kong s economic cycles become more closely aligned with those of the Mainland economy (Exhibit 8), our view is that the risk of Hong Kong s growth being adversely affected by the Mainland economic slowdown is increasing. Our calculations suggest that the Hong Kong economy has had a rising positive correlation with the Mainland economy in recent years, and that this correlation has even been higher than that between the economies of Hong Kong and the US although that is possibly because of cyclical factors or, in economic terms, irregular variations (Exhibit 9). 2 But there are other indications that the economic relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland is getting closer. The Mainland s share of Hong Kong s total trade has increased to over 50% from 38% in Mainland tourists now account for 78% of total visitor arrivals, up from around 25% over the same time period. In addition, turnover on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index is now equivalent to about 74% of that on the Hang Seng Index (HSI), up from 61% just three years ago. Exhibit 8: GDP Growth Exhibit 9: GDP Correlation (correlation coefficient) Hong Kong with: Mainland China US Source: CEIC, Hang Seng Bank 2 The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Quarterly Bulletin, September

7 Against this backdrop, a key question is how much the Mainland economic slowdown could affect Hong Kong s growth. Our analysis of this issue last year determined that a slowing of the Mainland s economy could affect trade, prices and financial activity in Hong Kong. Our findings, which we believe are still valid for reference purposes, suggested that a drop of 0.2 to 0.7 percentage points in Mainland GDP growth would reduce Hong Kong s growth by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points and that the impact would be more on investment than on consumption or trade (Exhibit 10). 3 Exhibit 10: Estimated Impact of Slowing Mainland Growth on Hong Kong Impact on Hong Kong economy: Assuming Mainland GDP Growth: Down by 0.2 ppt. Down by 0.7 ppt. GDP ppt ppt. Private consumption ppt ppt. Investment ppt ppt. Total exports ppt ppt. Inflation ppt ppt. Note: ppt. stands for percentage point Source: Hang Seng Bank Another source of risk would be the recent stock market adjustment, which has seen the HSI fall by around 4,500 points, or over 17%, since the start of July. The HSI is widely seen as a forward-looking barometer for the Hong Kong economy (Exhibit 11) and its fall may lead to a reduction in household wealth and, hence, consumption. Estimating this negative wealth effect from declining share prices is never easy, but we can view the issue from two different angles. First, the Mainland s stock market boom and the resulting 17.4% growth in financial services activity during the first six months of 2015 were cited by many as the main reason for the economy achieving 7% growth in the first half of the year. In Hong Kong, financing and insurance activity accounts for about 16.4% of GDP. By our calculation, it grew 6% on average and contributed 1.1 percentage points to the 2.6% GDP growth recorded for the first half of the year. 3 Hang Seng Bank, Hong Kong Economic Monitor, April

8 It was about four years ago when the HSI last experienced a decline of over 17%. The index dropped by about 4,800 points, or 22%, in the two months to September In the following quarter, the fourth quarter of 2011, financing and insurance activity contracted by 0.8% and reduced GDP growth by 0.2 percentage points (Exhibit 12). If history is any guide, financing and insurance activity might therefore make no or a slightly negative contribution to GDP in the third or fourth quarter of this year. Exhibit 11: GDP Growth vs Hang Seng Index Exhibit 12: GDP vs Financing & Insurance Activity Second, with the recent stock slide, Hong Kong s total stock market capitalisation has fallen by about HKD4.7 trillion since the start of July to around HKD24 trillion. According to the latest Cash Market Transaction and Retail Investor surveys conducted by the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, local retail investors who total about million persons, or about 36.4% of the Hong Kong adult population accounted for about 20% of the total stock market turnover in 2013/14 (Exhibit 13 & 14). This suggests that every local retail stock investor has lost about HKD415,000 on average, which is a significant figure when compared to the current median monthly household income of HKD24,500 or the 2014 GDP per capita of HKD311,000. In order to bear recent financial losses from shares, investors are likely to cut their spending over the coming months. Perhaps more importantly, if more than one in three people are spending less, the rest of the population may also shift towards greater thrift. And this likely reduction in spending would, in turn, weigh heavy on overall economic growth. 8

9 Conclusion If the depreciation trend in the RMB persists, it may boost trade but dampen retail sales in Hong Kong. Overall, its direct impact on the Hong Kong economy is likely to be positive as an increase in trade should lift growth and falling retail sales will likely also mean falling imports. However, the indirect impact of depreciation is hard to estimate. Given that the RMB has stabilised and a sharp depreciation is unlikely, the currency s recent weakness should not have a significant impact on Hong Kong s economic growth. That said, we have observed an increase in the downside risks to growth arising from further economic slowdown on the Mainland and the recent stock market correction. Our previous work indicated that a drop of 0.2 to 0.7 percentage points in Mainland GDP growth would reduce Hong Kong s growth by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points. Financing and insurance activity currently accounts for about 16.4% of GDP in Hong Kong and the stock market adjustment suggests that it may make no or even a slightly negative contribution to GDP in the third or fourth quarter this year. Falling share prices may also discourage consumers from spending. These factors have increased the risks to our forecast for Hong Kong s 2015 GDP growth, which we currently have at 2.5%. Exhibit 13: Stock Market Trading (by investor type) (Oct 2013 Sep 2014) % Overseas institutional investors 33.8 Local institutional investors 24.4 Local retail investors 20.5 Exhibit 14: % of Adult Population as Stock Investors % Stock Exchange Participants principal trading Overseas retail investors Source: HKEx, Hang Seng Bank Source: HKEx, Hang Seng Bank 9

10 Hong Kong Economic Monitor Statistics September 2015 GDP Retail sales Nominal Real Value Volume Exports Foreign trade HKD bn yoy (%) yoy (%) yoy (%) HKD bn yoy (%) HKD bn yoy (%) HKD bn (%) yoy (%) , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , F 2, , , Imports Trade balance Unemployment rate (s.a.) Inflation Q Q , Q , Q , Q Q , Q3 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA May 2015 NA NA Jun NA NA Jul NA NA Aug NA NA Sep NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA YTD 1, , , Total deposit RMB deposit Total loan Money supply (M3) Residential property price Tourist arrivals HKD bn yoy (%) RMB bn yoy (%) HKD bn yoy (%) yoy (%) Index ytd (%) '000 yoy (%) , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Q , , , Q2 9, , , Q3 9, , , Q4 10, , , , Q , , , Q2 10, , , Q3 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA May , , , Jun 10, , , Jul 10, , , Aug 10, , NA NA 5, Sep NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA YTD 10, , , NA: not available; (A)= actual; (F)= HASE forecast; yoy= year-on-year; ytd= year-to-date Source: Census & Statistics Dept., HKMA, Rating & Valuation Dept., Hong Kong Tourism Board, Macrobond, CEIC, Hang Seng Bank 10

11 GDP Growth Consumer Price Inflation Unemployment Rate (s.a.) Retail Sales Value Exports & Imports Residential Property Price Index 11

12 Disclaimer This document has been issued by Hang Seng Bank Limited ( HASE ) and the information herein is based on sources believed to be reliable and the opinions contained herein are for reference only and may not necessarily represent the view of HASE. The research analyst(s) who prepared this report certifies(y) that the views expressed herein accurately reflect the research analyst s(s ) personal views about the financial instrument or investments and that no part of his/her/their compensation was, is or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendation(s) or views contained in this research report. Nothing herein shall constitute as offers or solicitation of offers to buy or sell foreign exchange contracts, securities, financial instruments or other investments. Re-distribution of any part of this document by any means is strictly prohibited. The information contained in this document may be indicative only and has not been independently verified and no guarantee, representation, warranty or undertaking, expressed or implied is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information, projections or opinions contained in this document or the basis upon which any such projections or opinions have been based and no responsibility or liability is accepted in relation to the use of or reliance on any information, projections or opinions whatsoever contained in this document. Investors must make their own assessment of the relevance, accuracy and adequacy of the information and opinions contained in this document and make such independent investigations as they may consider necessary or appropriate for the purpose of such assessment. All such information, projections and opinions are subject to change without notice. HASE and its affiliates may trade for their own account in, may have underwritten, or may have a position in, all or any of the securities or investments mentioned in this document. Brokerage or fees may be earned by HASE or its affiliates in respect of any business transacted by them in all or any of the securities or investments referred to in this document. The investments mentioned in this document may not be suitable for all investors. Investors must make investment decisions based on their own investment objectives, financial position and particular needs and consult their own professional advisers where necessary. This document is not intended to provide professional advice and should not be relied upon in that regard. No consideration has been given to the particular investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any recipient. Investment involves risk. Investors should note that value of investments can go down as well as up and past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. This document does not purport to identify all the risks that may be involved in the securities or investments referred to in this document. 12

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