(Bloomberg) -- Chinese stocks capped another week of big gains as reopening moves gathered pace and the outlook improved for the embattled property sector.
Casino and property shares led the rally, with the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index jumping 7.3%, adding to a 6.7% advance last week. A Bloomberg gauge of Chinese developers surged 11% Friday alone, taking the week’s advance to nearly 20%.
Investors are betting on a more sustained revival for China stocks as the easing of Covid curbs and the property crisis — their two biggest pain points — boost sentiment. Mainland authorities are accelerating a pivot away from Covid Zero, dismantling some of the harshest restrictions including frequent testing. The moves have triggered similar shifts in Macau, while Hong Kong is cautiously edging toward a full reopening.
“The gains are riding on China’s gigantic move on Covid policy loosening. The momentum may continue until we start the reality check with the first wave of outbreak,” said Willer Chen, senior analyst with Forsyth Barr Asia Ltd. “Now it is kind of a let-it-fly mode for the market.”
In the latest round of easing, Macau relaxed testing requirements for Chinese visitors, while the government in Hong Kong shortened the isolation period for Covid patients. On the mainland, authorities have abandoned mass lockdowns and centralized quarantine even as Covid cases continue to spike.
A Bloomberg gauge of shares of casino operators, key beneficiaries of China’s potential tourism resumption, has more than doubled since the end of October. And JPMorgan Chase & Co. expects further gains as valuation remains at “comfortable” levels.
All of this marks a rapid turn of tide following months of rampant pessimism on the broader market. A growing number of money managers and strategists are joining the bullish chorus, with Morgan Stanley strategists expecting Chinese equities to broadly outperform their emerging market and global peers.
Policy makers have also been taking a number of decisive steps to rescue the real-estate industry, whose yearslong slump has cast a pall on the broader economy. The measures include the removal of a major equity fund raising ban.
During the annual Central Economic Work Conference next week, officials plan to play down the significance of “housing is for living, not for speculation” phrase and aim to reverse the downward trend in the property sector, Bloomberg News reported late Thursday.
Read: China Mulls More Property Easing at Economic Meeting Next Week
The gauge of Chinese developer stocks has risen almost 90% since an October trough, even though property demand remains weak. Builders’ dollar notes rose at least 1 cent on the dollar on Friday, according to credit traders. An index tracking the nation’s junk bonds, predominately sold by builders, headed for a fifth straight week of gains.
The CSI 300 Index, a benchmark for mainland shares, jumped 3.3% in its biggest weekly gain since early November.
China’s economic growth will “keep picking up” as the government implements the recent changes to Covid control policies, outgoing Premier Li Keqiang said Thursday. On Friday, Li said the nation’s stable prices allow further room for macro policy adjustments.
Read: China Growth to Rebound on Covid Policy Change, Premier Li Says
But some market watchers are sounding the alarm over the pace of gains, warning that the path to full reopening will be a long haul.
A potential surge in Covid cases in the coming months could have some negative impact, “especially as the market has rebounded quite a lot and investors could try to take some profits,” Wilfred Sit, chief investment officer for Hang Seng Investment Management, said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “It could be a bumpy road.”
--With assistance from Dorothy Ma.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.