Where to park your money is an issue in troubled times

The stock market’s bear run and a weakening property sector are giving Hong Kong investors eyeing good dividends a hard time.  [Photo provided to China Daily]

The drastic changes that have beset the investment environment since early this year have raised the question of where to park your money in the longer term.

That’s a hard choice, particularly, for Hong Kong investors who have been used to years of low interest rates, robust economic growth and surging asset prices when buying stocks or properties.

Not anymore. Interest rates are on the rise and the economic prospects are now clouded by the escalating trade war between the United States and the Chinese mainland — Hong Kong’s two largest markets. The decline of the stock market in the past few months is a stark reminder of troubled times ahead.

Even the mighty property sector is showing signs of weakening. The fall in residential property prices in August — the first such downturn in 27 months — is widely seen an indication of the onset of the long overdue market down cycle that could last five or more years, based on past experience.

Unlike what developers have been saying, the demand for homes is elastic. The buying frenzy will fizzle out when prices are seen to be falling and property’s appeal as the best storage of value waning. The developers know best. That’s why they’ve been cutting prices of new apartments to push sales before the crunch sets in.

If you, like many other investors, are prepared to tick off Hong Kong stocks and properties from your list, where else then can you put your money?

Some people would say that, in these uncertain times, cash is king. But keeping cash in the bank is a losing proposition because the deposit rates can never catch up with inflation which is rising to above 2 percent. Alternate investments like arts and antiques make sense only to the few who can truly understand the market.

More investors are now betting on the US stock market which is buoyed by robust economic growth and an appreciating greenback. The mighty tech stocks, including Apple, Amazon and Google, are the favorites as they are making inroads into cloud computing and other internet businesses.

For those who insist on playing it safe, the obvious choice is time deposits as smaller banks are offering higher interest rates to attract longer-term funding to lessen their dependence on the interbank market where rates are rising rapidly.


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