China ETFs Lag Global Markets as Investors Turn Risk-Off

Chinese stocks and country-specific ETFs are underperforming their global peers as high debt levels and a threat of a U.S.-China trade war fuel trader fears.

Looking at some of the largest China-related ETFs, the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: FXI) fell 12.5% over the past three months while the iShares MSCI China ETF (NYSEArca: MCHI) dropped 11.4%, SPDR S&P China ETF (NYSEArca: GXC) decreased 11.2% and Xtrackers CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: ASHR) declined 13.6%.

Meanwhile, the MSCI ACWI ex-US Index was only down 5.8%, the MSCI Emerging Market Index was 7.2% lower and the S&P 500 dipped 5.5% over the same period.

“Although China’s nominal economic growth has looked OK so far, it’s the uncertainties about the future that have clearly weakened investors’ risk appetite,” Zhu Chaoping, a Shanghai-based economist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, told the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Why You Should Incorporate China ETF Exposure

While China has produced solid growth numbers, the economy is showing signs of slowing. Chinese factors were producing fewer goods for foreign buyers even before the recent trade war talks with Washington. Enthusiasm over company stocks of big state-owned companies has also declined in recent months after investors jumped on them last year.