China ETFs Have Slowed Down as Economy Shrinks for First Time

China country-specific exchange traded funds have been weighed down as the coronavirus outbreak ravaged the economy, stalled broad industries and stifled consumer demand.

Year-to-date, the iShares MSCI China ETF (NASDAQ: MCHI), the largest China ETF by assets, has declined 6.9% while the Xtrackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: ASHR), the largest China A-shares related ETF, dropped 10.2%.

The Chinese economy contracted for the first time on record over the first quarter after the coronavirus or COVID-19 caused widespread industry shutdowns and forced millions to stay at home, Reuters reports.

China’s gross domestic product declined 6.8% in the first three months year-over-year, according to official data, a slightly steeper pullback than the 6.5% forecasted by analysts and upending the previous 6% expansion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The economic weakness also marked the first contraction in the world’s second-largest economy since at least 1992, when official records were first published.

More optimistic market watchers pointed out that a much smaller-than-expected dip in factory production in March indicated that tax and credit relief were supporting parts of the economy shut down since February.

Some analysts, though, warned that the emerging economy will struggle to revive growth and stop massive job losses after the pandemic cut demand from major trading partners and as local consumption weakens.

“First-quarter GDP data is still largely within expectations, reflecting the toll from the economic standstill when the whole society was on lockdown,” Lu Zhengwei, Shanghai-based chief economist at Industrial Bank, told Reuters. “Over the next phase, the lack of overall demand is of concern. Domestic demand has not fully recovered as consumption related to social gatherings is still banned while external demand is likely to be hammered as pandemic spreads.”

Consequently, observers cautioned that China should brace for s protracted down period.

“We are hesitant to think that this is just a one-quarter event, Q2 will also likely be lower than expectation,” Ben Luk, senior multi-asset strategist at State Street Global Markets, told Reuters.

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