The Chinese economy has been at the root of the broader market malaise since the start of 2016. But, the world's second largest economy showed signs of improvement in March. China's factory indicators point to a pickup in the economy supported by greater stability in the yuan and a rise in its stock markets. Pressure on emerging markets including China eased due to the Federal Reserve's cautious stance to hike rates in the future. Higher rates in the U.S. mostly results in outflows from these markets.
China's service sector also expanded last month, which bodes well for the country's long-term goal of transforming into a consumer-driven economy. Increase in stimulus measures from Chinese authorities helped the service sector to move north.
Given the recovery in manufacturing and services, it will not be unwise to invest in mutual funds that are exposed to the Chinese economy. When you add industrial profits gaining immensely in the first two months of this year and consumer sentiment touching record levels last month, China doesn't seem to be in a bad proposition.
Before we cherry pick some good funds, let's take a look at the latest data:
After eight consecutive months of decline, China's official manufacturing PMI came in at 50.2 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. There has also been a marked improvement in production and new orders. The production index went up to 52.3 in March from 50.2 in February, while the new orders index rose to 51.4 from 48.6 in February.
A separate indicator, the private Caixin manufacturing PMI, rose to 49.7 in March from 48.0 in February. In spite of being below 50, it turned out to be the index's highest reading in the past 13 months. Caixin Insight Group Chief Economist He Fan pointed out that "the output and new order categories rose above the neutral 50-point level, indicating that the stimulus policies the government has implemented have begun to take hold."
China-focused funds such as the Oberweis China Opportunities Fund (MUTF:OBCHX) and the Matthews China Fund (MUTF:MCHFX) are poised to benefit from this uptick in factory output. These mutual funds have invested in companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (NYSE:TSM), China Mobile Limited (NYSE:CHL), CNOOC Ltd. (NYSE:CEO) and Tencent Holdings (OTCPK:TCEHY) that are direct beneficiaries of a rise in factory activities.
Services Gain Momentum
China's official non-manufacturing PMI rose to 53.8 in March from 52.7 in February. This showed expansion in the service sector, which has become a major source of economic and employment growth in the country. Sub-indices of the non-manufacturing PMI including the new orders index, input price index, and sales price index all improved in March.
The non-manufacturing PMI generally includes retail, aviation, technology, telecommunications, financials and construction sectors. Funds such as the AllianzGI China Equity Fund Class A (MUTF:ALQAX) and the Eaton Vance Greater China Growth Fund Class A (MUTF:EVCGX) are positioned to immensely benefit as they have significant exposure to the aforementioned sectors.
3 China-Focused Mutual Funds to Invest In
Rise in both industrial and service activities in China will surely help its economy to navigate through troubled waters. Moreover, the country's industrial profits climbed 4.8% to about $119.8 billion in the first two months of this year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Recovery in real estate industry was cited to be the reason behind this increase in industrial profits. NBS analyst He Ping added that the "positive trend was driven in part by quicker product sales of industrial firms and a narrowing in the decline of industrial producer prices."
Consumer sentiment too rose sharply in March. The Westpac MNI China Consumer Sentiment Indicator jumped 6.1% to 118.1 in March, its highest level since Sep. 2015. Banking on this optimism, it will be wise to invest in China focused mutual funds that have gained in the last one-month period. Further, these funds possess strong fundamentals, which will eventually help them continue gaining in the future as well.
We have selected three such mutual funds that boast a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or #2 (Buy), offer minimum initial investment within $5,000, carry a low expense ratio and have given positive returns in the last four weeks.
Matthews China Investor seeks to achieve its investment objective by investing a large portion of its assets in the common and preferred stocks of companies located in China. MCHFX's 4-week return is 1.9%. Annual expense ratio of 1.14% is lower than the category average of 1.76%. MCHFX has a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #1.
AllianzGI China Equity A seeks to achieve its objective by normally investing a major portion of its assets in equity securities of Chinese companies. ALQAX's 4-week return is almost 7%. Annual expense ratio of 1.70% is lower than the category average of 1.76%. ALQAX has a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #2.
Invesco Greater China Y (MUTF:AMCYX) invests the majority of its assets in equity or equity-related instruments issued by companies located in Greater China and in other instruments that have economic characteristics similar to such securities. AMCYX's 4-week return is 7.1%. Annual expense ratio of 1.63% is lower than the category average of 1.76%. AMCYX has a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank #2.
Editor's Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.