© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of a giant display of stock indexes, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China October 24, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song
By Rae Wee and Summer Zhen
SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese stocks soared and the yuan jumped on Friday, setting Hong Kong’s on course for its best week in a decade, on hopes for twin relief in U.S.-China tension and COVID rules.
The Hang Seng surged either side of the midday break and was last up 7%, and heading for a weekly gain of more than 10% for the first time since November 2011. The rose 2.7% and was headed for a 5.6% weekly gain, the largest in more than two years.
Bloomberg News reported initial U.S. inspections of audit papers at U.S.-listed Chinese companies – a long-running point of regulatory tension and risk – finished ahead of time, raising hopes that the U.S. officials were satisfied.
Unsubstantiated social media posts flagging an aim to relax COVID rules in March have also driven optimism all week and seemed to get new momentum on Friday from the appearance of Guang Zeng, former chief expert of epidemiology, at a Citi investor conference on the topic of China’s exit from zero-COVID.
“The optimism right now is basically a removal of certain types of uncertainties that have been lingering … but the outlook is really mixed,” said Peiqian Liu, China economist at NatWest Markets in Singapore.
Changes to COVID policies have not been officially flagged. A foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday he was not aware of the situation when asked about rumours on social media that China was planning a reopening from strict COVID curbs in March, which pushed Hong Kong and China stock higher.
An early conclusion to audit checks has not been confirmed by either Chinese or U.S. officials and the Bloomberg report carried no comment from either side.
“I think that probably explains why Alibaba (NYSE:) is up 20%, not 80%… but that can’t discount the optimism we see right now,” said Liu.
Alibaba shares were last up 13%. JD (NASDAQ:).com shares also rose 13%. The Hang Seng Tech index rose 8%. Onshore the blue-chip index rose 3.3%.
The yuan rose about 0.9% to 7.2410 per dollar, despite broad dollar gains elsewhere. [CNY/]
(This story has been corrected to clarify official response to rumours on Tuesday in paragraph 6)
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