Fear of owning HSBC Holdings Plc shares is turning into a fear of missing out on a major rally.
But a lot has changed since then. British regulators have signaled they would consider softening their stance on a dividend ban imposed on banks in March at the height of the pandemic. Also, HSBC recorded better-than-expected third quarter results on cost savings while investors have piled into financial stocks as part of a sector rotation.
Shares of HSBC rose as much as 3.1% on Thursday in Hong Kong to hit a fresh eight-month high. They gained 3% in London on Wednesday.
“HSBC’s fortunes have improved with a U.S. presidency change likely to ease trade and China-U.S. tensions, as well as increasing cost savings expectations and a likely return to dividends in 2021,” said Jonathan Tyce, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
HSBC’s Hong Kong-listed stock has punched through several major resistance levels and is now trading above its 50-day, 100-day and 200-day moving averages. Its 14-day relative strength index is at 76, a level indicating the stock is in overbought territory.
The gains come after a testing period for the bank in its crucial China market. HSBC shares in Hong Kong plunged to their weakest since 1995 in September after it was seen as a possible candidate for China’s “unreliable entity list” that aims to punish firms, organizations or individuals that damage national security. Chinese media blasted it over its role in the U.S. investigation of Huawei Technologies Co. HSBC had also faced pressure to publicly endorse China’s new security law in Hong Kong.
But there are indications that the standoff with China may be easing. Last month, the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper highlighted on Twitter comments from HSBC Chairman Mark Tucker about the bank’s China expansion plans. China’s U.K. ambassador Liu Xiaoming quoted the tweet supporting the move.
Still, most analysts have yet to soften their stance on the bank’s outlook. Just this week, Deutsche Bank AG and Credit Suisse Group AG analysts reiterated negative ratings on the firm’s shares in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Only six of the 31 analysts tracked by Bloomberg who follow HSBC recommend buying and 13 give it a sell.
On the other hand, Citigroup Inc. raised its price target for HSBC by 24% late last month saying that it’s better positioned than other Hong Kong banks going into 2021 on stronger earnings recovery and an expected dividend restart. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended a buy rating.
HSBC has some hurdles ahead, with the ongoing pandemic forcing the firm to step up cost-cutting plans to contain debt. The firm also mulled plans to offload its U.S. consumer franchise.
Beyond the company’s strengthening outlook, the bank has also been a beneficiary of investors piling into bank stocks in a move widely attributed as sector rotation. Standard Chartered has gained about 47% so far this quarter, while Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. is up 25% in Hong Kong.