(Bloomberg) — A key gauge of Chinese stocks traded in Hong Kong neared a bear market as Beijing’s latest crackdown drives investors to dump shares of the nation’s technology giants.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index tumbled by 3.2% on Thursday, extending its loss since a February high to just shy of 20%. The gauge was dragged down by some of the biggest internet names including Meituan, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., which were down by at least 3.7%. Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index slid 2.9%, wiping out gains for the year.
The selloff comes after China’s cyberspace regulator suddenly ordered app stores to remove Didi Chuxing over the weekend, dealing a major blow to the ride-hailing giant just days after it pulled off one of the biggest U.S. initial public offerings of the past decade. Adding to the bearish sentiment on Thursday was a surprise shift in policy from China’s central bank, which signalled to traders that the country’s economy may be in worse shape than thought.
Stock turnover on Hong Kong’s mainboard rose to the highest since June 18 to HK$205 billion on Thursday.
Investors now worry that more troubles are ahead for the sector as Beijing mulls further rule changes that would allow them to block Chinese firms from listing overseas.
“There could be further tightening for existing investigations, such as antitrust for internet platforms,” and more probes into new areas, said Katherine Chan, equity research analyst at Union Bancaire Privée.
The Hang Seng Tech Index, whose members include China’s biggest firms in the sector, fell 3.7%, extending its weekly decline to more than 7%. That’s on track to be the deepest weekly loss since late February when a surprise stock trading tax-hike plan accelerated profit taking. The nation’s technology giants have lost nearly $900 billion in market value since February highs.
“We see every motivation for China to limit overseas listings going forward,” Jefferies analysts including Edison Lee wrote in a note Wednesday. “China wants to rely less on U.S. capital markets to have more say in the U.S.-China relationship, and to develop its own stock market and boost Hong Kong’s financial center status.”
(Updates with prices throughout)
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