October 9, 2017 / 9:55 AM / 8 months ago

Graphic: Foreigners trim holdings of Asian equities in September

REUTERS - Foreign investors sold Asian equities for the third straight month in September as a rising U.S. dollar and the appeal of rallying U.S. stocks spurred them to lighten portfolios in the region.

Data from seven Asian exchanges showed foreign investors sold about $4.9 billion in total in September, the highest since November.

India, Taiwan and South Korea, which have led Asia’s equity inflows for the year, faced the biggest hit as U.S. equities and U.S. Treasury yields started to look more attractive to investors. Driving these flows to the U.S. are President Donald Trump’s new tax proposals and the Federal Reserve’s plans to begin trimming its $4.5-trillion portfolio of assets this month.

The Fed raised rates in March and June this year and market participants expect it to raise rates again in December.

“The strengthening U.S. dollar remains a very plausible risk for Asian equities in the near-term with a U.S. Fed hike and tax reform expectations, and this could cause outflows to sustain for some of the more vulnerable markets into the year-end,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG markets in Singapore.

“Nevertheless, the latest set of PMI numbers in Asia has shown resilient economic conditions and could provide moderate support for regional markets.”

Last month, the World Trade Organization (WTO) revised the growth in global trade to 3.7 percent in 2017, well above last year’s 1.3 percent, saying trade growth was becoming more synchronised across regions than it had been for many years.

Economists said reviving global trade augurs well for trade-dependent Asian economies and would boost corporate profits.

South Korea’s exports surged to record $55.1 billion in September on rising demand for its memory chips and steel products, while Japan’s export growth accelerated to the fastest pace in four years in August.

Thomson Reuters data showed Asia Pacific companies are expected to post the highest profit growth of 32 percent in 2017, followed by Europe’s 22 percent and the United States’ 10 percent.

Valuations are also favourable for the region with Asia Pacific’s price-to-book ratio last week at 1.7, compared with the United States’ 2.9 and Europe’s 1.9.

For international investors, Asian equities provide both growth prospects and low valuations, analysts say.

MSCI’s 47-country All-World index, which contains more than 2,400 firms, hit a record high last week.

“In the current environment where investors are clamouring for potential upside when most asset classes look quite expensive, Asian equities do look attractive,” said Oliver Lee, investment director in Hong Kong at Old Mutual Global Investors.

“Over the next 6-12 months, we would expect to see positive flows into Asian equities from international investors.”

Additional Reporting by Gaurav Dogra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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