Alibaba, Earnings Will Likely Give Stocks Little Help

(Bloomberg) — Hopes for a much-needed boost in Chinese tech shares from earnings is likely to fizzle as signs grow that the nation’s post Covid recovery is losing steam.

Most Read from Bloomberg Inc. will kick off the season on Thursday with flat revenue growth expected for the first quarter, which would be the slowest pace on record, Bloomberg-compiled data show. Next week, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will likely report revenue that grew less than 3%, while Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s sales may still lag the double-digit pace of the past, according to analyst estimates.

The lackluster expectations are fueling traders to snap up bearish bets in the options market. The put-to-call ratio for Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares rose to the highest level since October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Earnings consensus for members of the Hang Seng Tech Index has barely moved from record lows reached in March.

Tech stocks have languished since their January peak, as China’s consumption-led rebound turned out to be more muted than expected. While upside surprise to earnings can help lift sentiment, the sector faces headwinds from amped up US-China tensions and high global interest rates, meaning a sustained rebound would be hard to come by.

“I think the market potentially gotten ahead of itself earlier in the year. Internet stocks rallied in anticipation of better times to come, with hopes pinned on the potential upside from re-opening and more benign regulatory environment,” said Robert Lea, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “However, this did not lead to a change in the earnings outlook for most companies.”

Part of the issue is that spending after the country’s reopening just hasn’t matched expectations. During the recent Golden Week holiday, booking volumes rose while spending remained lackluster. Investors are also worried about US-China tensions and an uncertain economic outlook, especially after a surprise contraction in the manufacturing sector.

There is some pick up in activity, though. Gross merchandise value growth in China’s e-commerce industry accelerated to 11% in March after slowing to 5% in the first two months this year, according to Goldman Sachs estimates, which cited recovering demand and eased logistics disruptions. Still, Alibaba and’s growth are below the industry’s average, the broker estimated.

Going forward, a return of risk appetite and material upgrades in earnings outlook for the companies are needed to spark the next leg of China’s tech rally, BI’s Lea added.

Others caution that the market’s momentum has now shifted away from tech into more popular trades, including a recent frenzy on financial shares thanks to its links to the government.

“The current earnings momentum is not very good and it will be hard to attract investors back to this sector when the other sectors like SOEs have much more attractive valuation and favorable policy support,” said Kenny Wen, head of investment strategy at KGI Asia Ltd.

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