China's rocky footing: Reading the reopening

China’s pandemic-battered economy is starting to see consumers open their wallets wider, according to KraneShares’ Brendan Ahern.

“We’re seeing the incremental rebound from the Chinese consumer,” the firm’s chief investment officer told “ETF Edge” this week. “[But] it’s not like turning on a light switch.”

The National Bureau of Statistics of China reports retail sales have been increasing since last November.

Ahern, who’s involved with the firm’s China-focused ETFs, expects quarterly earnings for Chinese companies to improve with each consecutive quarter — a forecast that may already be unfolding.

Tech giants Baidu and Tencent beat revenue expectations for the fiscal first quarter of 2023. Alibaba, on the other hand, missed revenue estimates.

“We’re actually hearing that for many of the companies … in the management calls, they’re speaking to how Q2 already is outpacing Q1, which outpaced Q4 of last year,” Ahern said.

China’s reopening is also anticipated to have a positive impact on the airline industry.

Singapore Airlines, Japan’s All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines all noted demand from China as a factor in future earnings while reporting net profits earlier this month for the financial year ended March 2023.

GraniteShares’ Will Rhind sees a similar growth trajectory.

“Domestic travel [is] rebounding … but we’ve yet to see that from the international sector,” the ETF provider’s CEO said. “It will come, but maybe just not yet.”

Rhind told CNBC in a special interview later in the week that international travel from China could start to rebound this summer following a sluggish start.

His forecast comes as a government-backed epidemiologist said the country’s new Covid wave could infect 65 million a week by the end of next month.

Rhind believes the recent Covid surge won’t affect the reopening’s trajectory, adding past lockdowns seen across China are “very, very much unlikely to be repeated.”

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