By Nell Mackenzie
LONDON (Reuters) – Hedge funds snapped up battered Chinese stocks over three days last week at the fastest pace in more than five years, Goldman Sachs wrote in a note to clients.
The cumulative net buying of Chinese equities for Jan. 23-25 marked the biggest three-day shopping spree in more than five years, Goldman wrote in the note published on Friday and seen by Reuters on Monday.
This surge in hedge fund interest in Chinese stocks coincided with Beijing stepping up efforts to restore confidence in the world’s second-biggest economy, which has been hit by a crisis in the property sector and weak growth.
Hong Kong’s blue-chip stock index gained 6% in the three trading sessions starting Tuesday, while Shanghai’s broader stock index rose more than 3%.
The turnaround in sentiment came after a long period where hedge funds, in eight of the prior 10 weeks, held mostly bearish bets that China’s stock would fall.
Most of the action last week reflected hedge funds entering into outright long positions — betting stock prices would rise — rather than exiting short positions.
Hedge funds mostly piled into U.S.-listed shares of overseas companies, or ADRs, as a way of buying into Chinese equities, said Goldman Sachs.
This was followed by them buying mainland A-shares and Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong, or H-shares, the note said.
More broadly, Asian emerging markets saw the largest net buying in over five years with China by far the most net bought market in the week ending Jan. 25, followed by Taiwan and India, the note added.
The shift in hedge fund positioning towards China adds to signs that a sentiment shift may be taking place.
Investors poured almost $12 billion into Chinese equity funds in the week to Wednesday in the largest inflow since 2015 and the second-largest ever, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America said in separate notes, citing EPFR data last week.
The Goldman note added that this fund inflow was mostly via domestic exchange-traded funds in China.
Still, overall positioning in Chinese equities remains at five-year lows across both hedge funds and mutual funds, Goldman added.
Mutual fund historical holdings sat at a 5.5% allocation to China as of the end of December, the lowest level over the past decade, Goldman said citing the EPFR data.
Goldman said it remains “constructive” on Chinese stocks.
(Reporting by Nell Mackenzie; additional reporting by Summer Shen in Hong Kong; editing by Dhara Ranasinghe and Hugh Lawson)