Emerging markets equities and exchange traded funds have come under pressure in recent weeks, but that does not alter one of this year’s more prominent themes within the asset class: The increasingly allure and potency of China’s A-shares, the stocks traded on the mainland markets of Shanghai and Shenzhen.
China’s A-shares were previously a hard-to-access asset class and some market participants would make the case accessing A-shares is still a task, but some exchange traded funds have helped ameliorate the situation. That is important given the heft of the A-shares market.
“China A-shares are too big to be ignored, yet remain difficult to access for many investors. How can global investors sidestep a stock market that has become the third-largest equity market globally, with a total market value of $3.9 trillion and an average daily volume of $29 billion,” said Qi Wang and Chin-Ping Chia in a new MSCI whitepaper.
There remain issues with A-shares access, even with U.S.-listed ETFs, although some of those funds have proven popular with investors. For example, last month Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management was forced to limit creations in the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares Fund (NYSEArca: ASHR) and the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap Fund (NYSEArca: ASHS) amid heavy demand because the two ETFs were bumping up against their respective Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII), which allows the funds to purchase A-shares equities. [Limited Creations in Some A-Shares ETFs]
Late last week, “China accelerated RQFII quotas as the quarter progressed, adding $2.5 billion in September, according to State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) data released on Friday. The total outstanding quota is now $62.2 billion. Regulators gave the largest award of the month to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, adding $1 billion to take its quota to $2.5 billion,” Reuters reported.
That helped stoke a rally in ASHS, which is just five months old, that has seen the ETF gain about 40% since coming market while being one of the third quarter’s top non-leveraged ETFs.
As evidenced by the proliferation of A-shares ETFs, including 2014 launches such as ASHS and the KraneShares Bosera MSCI China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: KBA), investors are looking to boost their exposure to stocks traded on mainland China as mainland Chinese stocks recently traded at a 10% discount to their Hong Kong-listed counterparts, though that discount has recently shifted to a premium. KBA is the only A-shares ETF in the U.S. that tracks an MSCI index. Other issues are also stoking investor interest in A-shares stocks.
“Rising correlations between developed market and emerging market equities in recent decades have diminished the diversification effect of emerging market investing,” notes MSCI. “ China A-shares – along with frontier markets – still offer relatively lower correlations with the rest of the world, lead to potential diversification effects at the total portfolio level.”
The Market Vectors ChinaAMC A-Share ETF (NYSEArca: PEK), the first U.S-listed ETF to offer access to China’s A-shares, has a three-year correlation to the S&P 500 of just 0.24, according to Market Vectors data.
Despite, the growing importance of China’s A-shares market, it has not been promoted to major emerging markets indices by index providers. Earlier this year, FTSE, MSCI and Standard & Poor’s all declined to elevate China A-shares to emerging markets status.