Reaction to China relaxing COVID restrictions in major policy shift


Dec 7 (Reuters) – China announced on Wednesday the most sweeping changes to its tough zero-COVID policy since the pandemic began three years ago, loosening rules that curbed the spread of the virus but had hobbled the world’s second-largest economy and sparked protests.

The relaxation of rules, which include allowing infected people with mild or no symptoms to quarantine at home and dropping testing for people travelling within the country, are the strongest sign yet that Beijing is preparing its 1.4 billion people to live with the disease.

Here’s what people are saying about the latest moves to ease China’s COVID curbs:

CHI LO, SENIOR MARKET STRATEGIST, ASIA PACIFIC, BNP PARIBAS ASSET MANAGEMENT, HONG KONG

“Obviously, the consumption sector will benefit the most, but also the service sector and industries that involve human contacts and travel, will also benefit significantly.

“Together with public consumption, total consumption could push GDP growth in 2023 significantly higher than the current consensus forecast of 4%.”

REDMOND WONG, GREATER CHINA MARKET STRATEGIST, SAXO MARKETS, HONG KONG

“The 10 new measures are underwhelming, given the high expectations. I would argue that the readout from the Politburo meeting is more noteworthy as it makes no mention of the “dynamic zero-Covid” policy.

“Instead, it says that China will strive to better coordinate pandemic prevention and control with socioeconomic development and continue to optimize the country’s pandemic control measures.”

HYOMI JIE, PORTFOLIO MANAGER, FIDELITY INTERNATIONAL, SINGAPORE

“While direction for reopening is clear, it is important to monitor how things will zigzag…if cases are to flare up, the impact needs to be put into consideration in a very detailed way.”

GARY NG, ECONOMIST, NATIXIS, HONG KONG

“The latest announcements show China is determined to speed up its reopening due to economic pressure. It is likely to see upswings cyclically in business sentiment from suppressed demand, especially in sectors heavily affected by the covid restrictions.

“It means China will see a rebound from 3% in 2022 to 5.5% in 2023 in GDP growth, which is a rare market with faster expansion next year but with a low base effect. However, it does not mean everything will be fine again straight away as the zero-COVID has left a scar on consumer and business confidence, which will take longer than 2020 to repair this time.”

FRANK BENZIMRA, HEAD OF ASIA EQUITY STRATEGY, SOCIETE GENERALE, HONG KONG

“MSCI China has rebounded nicely, valuations have risen and can very gradually normalise. The markets will ask questions on how growth normalisation will happen.

“If China’s re-opening was to start a new global cycle, we would see the U.S. curve steepening, and higher U.S. Treasury (yields), which is not happening. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves in the opening.”

KEN CHEUNG, CHIEF ASIAN FX STRATEGIST, MIZUHO, HONG KONG

“The recent government policy is in line with market expectations for accelerating China’s reopening … but I think that restrictions will still exist and there will still be quite a lot of mobility restrictions, so I think it’s some distance from a full reopening.

“The next checkpoint will be Chinese New Year; I think markets are looking for further relaxation to facilitate return to their hometowns by Chinese New Year.”

MITUL KOTECHA, HEAD OF EMERGING MARKETS STRATEGY, TD SECURITIES, SINGAPORE

“These are significant steps, and the reality is the current policy had become very difficult to administer given how widespread COVID is in the country. It does shift the balance of growth risk back towards the upside.

“But some of this is already in the price. Now it’s going to be wait and see (and) how it’s executed. The reality on the ground is still one of continued pressure, even as the outlook is improving somewhat.”

ZHIWEI ZHANG, CHIEF ECONOMIST, PINPOINT ASSET MANAGEMENT, HONG KONG

“This change of policy is a big step forward. In particular the home quarantine policy will help to reallocate resources to focusing on treating patients with severe symptoms and patients with need for treatment other than COVID.

“The new policy pushes China’s reopening process earlier than market expected. In line with the message from the Politburo meeting today: to boost market confidence. I expect China will fully reopen its border no later than mid-2023.

“The quarantine requirement for international travellers will likely be shortened soon. The key issue in the next few months is to keep the hospitals running and get vaccination rate for senior citizens up quickly.”

SAKTIANDI SUPAAT, REGIONAL HEAD OF FX RESEARCH & STRATEGY, MAYBANK, SINGAPORE

“I think markets have, in some ways, priced in that element (of further easing).

“I think markets are probably expecting more about the opening up of the economy … and are probably still worried about the possibility of policy U-turns if they do not … see infections actually easing off, and also whether the authorities will be able to control outbreaks.”

NAKA MATSUZAWA, CHIEF JAPAN MACRO STRATEGIST, NOMURA, TOKYO

“This is more like noise than a game changer. I mean, it’s better for China to deregulate its COVID restrictions but even if it’s a booster for the Chinese economy and commodity prices, that will work negatively for a Fed pause because it tightens monetary conditions.”

“The most important thing (for investors globally) is the Fed pause, and whether the markets starts to see the slowdown as bad news instead of good news, so Chinese deregulation really doesn’t change that.”

Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Rae Wee in Singapore, Xie Yu and Selena Li in Hong Kong, Kevin Buckland in Tokyo, Scott Murdoch in Sydney; Compiled and edited by Sumeet Chatterjee & Shri Navaratnam

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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