Sun, May 18, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Investors, hold your horses

Investors will pay close attention to president-elect Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inauguration speech on Tuesday to learn what policies the incoming Cabinet will bring up in its first weekly meeting.

Even before the new president and the Cabinet are sworn in, investors appeared optimistic about the prospect of profiting from local equity investment, helping to send share prices to their highest closing level of 9,197.41 points this year on Friday.

After 10 weeks of withdrawal from Taiwan’s market, foreign institutional investors rekindled their passion for local shares last week. The latest stock exchange data showed that foreign investors have bought a net NT$30.4 billion (US$992 million) in local stocks so far this month, after they had sold a net NT$47.7 billion in the previous two months.

The latest data from domestic investment trust companies may have also helped assure a positive sentiment in the market, with local fund managers having a total of NT$2.15 trillion worth of funds under their control at the end of last month. This figure was up NT$105.96 billion, or 5.19 percent, from NT$2.04 trillion at the end of March, thanks to the addition of 26,600 investors, or an increase of 1.43 percent over the same period.

But investor optimism contrasted with public concern fueled by stagnant wages, rising food and fuel prices and academics warning of a bubble in the local housing market in light of the expected inflow of Chinese capital. How the new administration will address these problems will determine whether the bullish momentum will continue.

Investors should not unrealistically expect Ma’s administration to aggressively deliver on all his campaign promises.

Because it won’t: The pace of cross-strait liberalization will be slow because most Taiwanese prefer a gradual opening rather than a hasty relaxation. Ma’s selection of former Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmaker Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairwoman makes one wonder if her appointment was to provide the relaxation policy with a reality check.

The market will also have its eye on plans for more cross-strait charter flights and an increased number of Chinese tourists. But because of possible prolonged negotiations and red tape, the incoming transportation and communications minister Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) suggested last week that neither the weekend charter flights nor the Chinese tourist influx was likely to happen as soon as expected.

As for the lifting of the 40-percent China-bound investment cap, businesspeople should be disappointed at what designated minister of economic affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said recently. During an interview, Yiin only promised to prioritize the removal of the investment cap and stressed that the final decision would be up to the MAC.

Investors should also pay attention to economic data set to be released this week, including the current account balance and real GDP for the first quarter, as well as industrial production and export orders last month.

With rising food and energy import costs, signs of weakening export growth to other Asian countries and a persistently slowing global economy, investors should be aware of the nation’s decelerating GDP growth momentum in the months ahead. Among other things, the central bank’s quarterly meeting next month and its evaluation of the economy will be key factors to watch.

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