HONG KONG (MarketWatch) - News that Italian fashion house Prada is mulling an initial public offering in Hong Kong underscores the city-state's place at the height of fashion for new listings. Not content with surpassing London, Shanghai and New York in funds raised this year, Hong Kong's bourse is even pulling in top European fashion names.


Is this another signs asset markets in Hong Kong are spinning out of control in a glut of liquidity or just further evidence of the economic swing towards Asia?


Prada would certainly look a little out of step next to existing Hong Kong retail names such as Bossini, Giordano and Esprit. But perhaps this reflects the changing face of the city as a shoppers' paradise. For the new mainland Chinese tourist, the draw card is not copy watches and street markets, but the chains of luxury brands selling their wares duty free. Prada's move is also likely recognition of the growing importance of the Chinese consumer, which is on course to surpass Japan in household wealth in the next five years, according to a new report by Credit Suisse.

和已经上市的堡狮龙(Bossini)、佐丹奴(Giordano)、思捷环球(Esprit)等香港零售品牌比起来,普拉达肯定会显得有些与众不同。但这反映的或许是香港作为购物天堂的面貌所发生的改变。能够吸引首次来港内地游客的不是仿冒手表和露天市场,而是免税连锁奢侈品品牌。普拉达酝酿上市或许还印证了中国消费者日益重要的地位。瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)新发布的一份报告说,中国的家庭财富将在未来五年超过日本。

Still, the Italian brand will want to make sure it does not suffer an identitycrisis, where listing in Hong Kong translates into 'made in Hong Kong' or 'made in China.' No doubt, a key consideration is the rich valuations and large investorappetite for new listings in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong has become the dumping ground for global liquidity, squeezed between unprecedentedmonetary easing in the West and speculative money flows exiting China. One illustration of the advantageousliquidity conditions is that Agricultural Bank of China now trades at a 30% premium in Hong Kong to Shanghai after its mega dual listing three months ago. This all means Hong Kong is in the liquidity sweet spot for IPOs globally, where everyone tends to look better on the new listing catwalk.


This year, $23.9 billion has been raised from 53 IPOs, and Hong Kong is now preparing for the bumper $15 billion listing of AIG's AIA arm.


In recent days, it appears the pace of money circulating in Hong Kong is accelerating. Last weekend, buyers splashed out 13 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.68 billion) on new properties, while during the week, turnover on the stock market rose above HK$100 billion for only the second time since November last year, as the Hang Seng Index reached a two-year high.

近些天,香港的货币流通速度似乎正在加快。上周之前的那个周末,买家斥资130亿港元(合16.8亿美元)购买新房,而在上周,伴随着恒生指数(Hang Seng Index)触及两年高点,股市成交量超过了1,000亿美元,这是去年11月份以来第二次突破这一关口。

One element driving this is cheap money and negative real interest rates, with inflation running at 3%. For example, HSBC in a recent press release lists its savings rates: $5,000, $50,000 or $1 million on account, all pay 0.001% interest. At the same time, the bank appears to be aggressively seeking to lend money, if the offers of no-fee cash advances in my mail box are anything to go by.


While these loose money conditions have supported the stock market, it has also led to growing controversy over high property prices and the risk of an asset bubble. Despite a series of anti-speculation measures by the government, there are few signs of a property slowdown. Rather, property stocks have been rallying strongly - Cheung Kong Holdings, property developer of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, is now up 25% since August.

虽然这种宽松的货币环境支撑了股市,但它也因为高房价和资产泡沫风险而引起越来越大的争议。政府采取了一系列打击投机的措施,但楼市却很少看到冷却迹象。相反,地产股一直在强劲上扬,香港富豪李嘉诚(Li Ka-shing)手中的房地产开发企业长江实业(集团)有限公司(Cheung Kong Holdings),目前的股价已较8月份上涨25%。

This will provide an interesting backdrop as Chief Executive Donald Tsang gives his policy address on Wednesday, with the market looking for some direction on official thinking on the economy and asset prices. Perhaps the movement in developer prices tells us there will be little measures with teeth.

这将为香港特区行政长官曾荫权(Donald Tsang)周三发表政策演说构成一种饶有意味的背景,届时市场会从中窥探官方对于经济和资产价格的想法。开发商股价走势或许告诉我们,政府是拿不出多少有实质意义的措施的。

For many other Asian countries from Japan to Thailand, the big policy issue just now is the multi-year highs currencies are making against the dollar. And while China is receiving criticism from all quarters on its peg to the greenback, it is surprising how little attention the Hong Kong dollar peg gets. This is undoubtedly one factor contributing to capital flows as investors bet that if it does not move in tandem with the region, asset prices will take the strain.


In the meantime, macroeconomic conditions are undeniably favorable for Asian equities, note Nomura in a new strategy report. While valuations would normally be contracting as the market faces a slowdown in earnings momentum, a combination of negative real rates, hot-money inflows and rising price (assets and goods) are expanding the multiples.


Put another way, the 'P' is rising while the 'E' is declining. Little surprise then, new issues are making a beeline to Hong Kong, the most liquid and international of Asian markets.


Still, the investment banks notes these benign conditions might not last.


'The biggest risk for Asian markets is the rising probability of competitive devaluations in [the Group of Three major economies] disrupting monetary operations in Asia through capital inflows and higher local inflation.'


The answer, it seems, is to be on the watch for any reversal in capital flows which, like fashion trends and the market for IPOs, can be notoriously fickle.


-By Craig Stephen

Craig Stephen