The Hong Kong Takeover and What It Means for Your Portfolio

Last week, I mentioned that a return of last year’s clash with China was a wildcard that could upset the markets.

Well, China has gone ahead and put my words to the test.

On May 21, China announced that it would impose a draconian new security law over Hong Kong, the largely democratic and self-governed Chinese city.

You might remember that when Hong Kong’s pro-Chinese government tried to do something similar last year, the demonstrations there brought the city to a standstill. Because Hong Kong has long been a center of Asian trade and finance, the costs to China were huge, both in terms of lost money and loss of face.

From March through the end of the year, the people of Hong Kong made it clear they would not accept a takeover by China’s ruling Communist Party. The Hong Kong government retreated, and the matter disappeared as the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading.

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Well, now China is trying it again. This time, they’re not even pretending that Hong Kong’s local government is in charge.

On Tuesday of this week, the market didn’t show much reaction. The Reality Gap between the mild market reaction and the potential ramifications from an escalation in confrontation over Hong Kong has started to come into full view. The White House’s announcement about a news conference on China sent the markets down 350 Dow points yesterday afternoon. And trading is muted Friday morning as traders are showing concern over how aggressive China is getting and what U.S. foreign policy and trade reactions could be. Hong Kong is just the tip of the iceberg.

And it’s not about to stop. The effects on Chinese stocks could be huge

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I hope your Memorial Day was safe, pleasant, and that you managed to avoid the news.

If you didn’t, you’d be forgiven for expecting markets to open deep in the red this morning. As I’m writing this, the leading CNN headline, for example, is “COVID-19 cases are rising in 18 states.”
CNN’s Business section leads with “Markets are pushing higher as lockdowns ease. But huge risks remain.”

That’s this week’s market-moving Reality Gap.

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