China

Shares in Macau’s six casino operators, as well as travel and tour groups in Mainland China, rallied after a report that Beijing may be looking to move away from its zero-Covid policy, even though it may take another year for that to happen.

The report in the Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday said that some select cities may begin experimental measures starting this summer, although full easing is not expected until spring of 2023.

Still, it was enough to provide a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for investors. Las Vegas Sands was up 10 percent in the U.S. on Wednesday, with the gains continuing in Asia with a more muted 2.2 percent gain.

Melco Resorts & Entertainment was up 9 percent, while Wynn Resorts jumped more than 8 percent in U.S. trading, with its local unit up 3.7 percent on Thursday. SJM Holdings rose 0.7 percent and Galaxy Entertainment added 1.5 percent.

In the shorter-term, Macau’s operators are facing the prospect of tighter restrictions on travel in the region as Hong Kong continues to battle the worst outbreak of the pandemic so far.

Bernstein Research warned that there is evidence the virus has bled into China in recent weeks, with many cities and provinces issuing travel warnings.

“We have evidence of visa offices in certain cities also urging individuals not to go to Macau now due to Covid in Hong Kong and Guangdong. March GGR will most likely be negatively impacted as a result,” it said.

China and as a result Macau and Hong Kong have stood doggedly by their zero-Covid policies even as other countries in Asia have begun to pivot to live with the virus and reopen their international borders.

Vaccination rates in Hong Kong and Macau have not yet hit an 80 percent fully vaccinated rate, with very few having received booster jabs. The rate in China is higher, but most have received the Sinovac shot, which has been reported to be largely ineffective against the Omicron variant.