Between trade tensions with the U.S. and protests in Hong Kong, last year was tumultuous for Asia. But all of that paled in comparison to the coronavirus that would sweep through the continent — and go on to infect the rest of the world.
“For those of us that are Hong Kong-based, the protests led pretty much straight into the pandemic,” said Martin Yule, head of research for Asia Pacific at UBS. “At times, Hong Kong felt like the eye of the storm. Rising geopolitical tensions were definitely the defining macro force at the end of 2019, but Covid pushed these concerns into the background pretty quickly.”
Six months since Covid-19 was first discovered in China, countries in the region are now loosening lockdown restrictions. And many Asian equity markets are rebounding, partly on the back of the large stimulus packages in the United States and Europe.
“The biggest surprise of 2020 thus far has been the speed of the market recovery,” said Yule, who succeeded UBS’s long-time Asia Pacific research head Damien Horth in February.
But the region is by no means out of the woods yet, Yule said. “The speed of the economic recovery is far from certain, and it would appear that epidemiologists seem to agree on one thing: a second wave is likely,” he continued. “That will test equity markets over the back half of 2020.”
Amidst this uncertainty, investors appear to be sticking with their tried and true research providers, based on II’s 27th annual All-Asia Research Team.