China Markets

'Brave' investors can find opportunities in Asia — especially in Hong Kong, strategist says

Key Points
  • Global markets are in turmoil but opportunity awaits "brave" investors in Asia, according to LGT Bank strategist Stefan Hofer.
  • Investors should not assume that the difficult trading environment at the start of 2019 will set the tone for the entire year, Hofer said.
  • Hong Kong, where stocks slumped 13.6 percent last year, is a good place to start as it offers a buffer against the currency risk seen this week when the yen spiked, he said.
Strategist: I don't expect 'bazooka-style' stimulus in China

Investors should not be intimidated by the volatile start to the trading year and opportunities in Asia await those who are "brave," a strategist said Friday.

Global markets have taken a beating so far this year, even though 2019 has just begun. Uncertainties from last year, such as the U.S.-China trade war, are meeting new challenges such as iPhone maker Apple's sales warning.

"For the brave, now would be a good time to be looking at some of these markets," Stefan Hofer, chief investment strategist at LGT Bank in Hong Kong, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday.

I think if we do have a trade deal with China, let's say by the middle of 2019, then Asia will be the place to be in terms of equities.
Stefan Hofer
chief investment strategist at LGT Bank

Hofer suggested that thin liquidity and trading volumes during the opening week may be exacerbating the rough market conditions, and urged investors to be ready for possible good news.

"I think if we do have a trade deal with China, let's say by the middle of 2019, then Asia will be the place to be in terms of equities because that has been the major overhang that has been a problem for Asian markets," he said.

Hofer sees opportunity in Hong Kong's battered market, which he described as a "great place to start" for those willing to position themselves in the region for possible better times.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index is coming off its worst annual performance in seven years, finishing 2018 down 13.6 percent. It fell another 3 percent in the first two trading days of this year as global markets tanked.

Shares in the semi-autonomous Chinese region are sensitive to movements on mainland exchanges, which also fell sharply last year.

The U.S.-China tariff war has also dampened investor sentiment in Hong Kong as its economy relies heavily on trade.

'Cautiously optimistic'

But amid this week's market turmoil, which included major foreign exchange swings led by the Japanese yen, Hofer said stocks in Hong Kong offer a buffer, as the currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar.

"So you can actually, in theory, be buying good Hong Kong stocks like Hang Seng Bank and HSBC and whatever else without the interference coming from currency markets," Hofer told CNBC later.

View of the Hong Kong skyline.
Nikada | E+ | Getty Images

Kevin Leung, executive director for investment strategy and wealth management at Haitong International Securities in Hong Kong, also said the local stock market could offer opportunities.

Speaking on CNBC's "Street Signs," Leung described himself as "cautiously optimistic" on Hong Kong, citing near "historical low" valuations.

The first quarter, however, is likely to remain volatile as geopolitical issues such as the trade dispute and Brexit play out, he warned.

LGT's Hofer cautioned against taking a pessimistic outlook for the entire year because of its tumultuous beginning.

"We tend to do that," he said. "It's very natural, everybody does it. But honestly, let's be a little bit brave."