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From last year’s social unrest to this year’s US-China tensions, both have sparked concerns about a potential capital exodus from Hong Kong from time to time. However, instead of capital flight, so far, markets have seen very strong capital inflows. Three factors including free capital flow, common law system and HKD/USD peg system have made it hard for global investors to give up on Hong Kong’s financial market. Since the USD/HKD peg system is likely to hold, HKD rates are expected to stay lower for longer in tandem with the US counterparts, per OCBC Bank. 

Key quotes

“We think there are three factors that make it hard to give up on Hong Kong’s financial market. First, the free capital flow. According to the Article 112 of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong dollar shall be freely convertible. This gives confidence to the investors who highly value the ease of funds repatriation. Second, the common law system. This system is applied in the other major financial markets such as the US, the UK, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, etc. This reduces the investors’ concerns about the difficulty of resolving potential disputes. Third, the HKD/USD peg system. The currency peg system is transparent and stable and therefore allows investors to save on hedging costs.”

“We still think it is unlikely for the US to cut Hong Kong off from the US clearing system or SWIFT as it will hurt the US’ interest and is most probably not what a Biden administration wants given his support for multilateralism. More notably, it is much more difficult to attack the currency peg system by short-selling Hong Kong stocks now than during Asian Financial Crisis as the stock market capitalization has increased by more than ten times during the period.”

“Should the Fed keep rates unchanged near zero before end-2023, the new era of low rates in the world including Hong Kong is likely to be prolonged too. This will therefore give a boost to the financial market as well as the residential property market in Hong Kong.”