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Why Funds Are Bullish on Chinese Markets


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Chinese stocks have been clobbered lately. While the Standard & Poor's 500 gained 5.7% in the past year, China funds lost 20.2%, according to Morningstar. The trouble can be traced to signs that the booming economy may be slowing.

Exports to Europe have been suffering, and property prices are sinking throughout much of the country. Chinese corporate earnings growth has been slowing. Analysts expect earnings to grow 6% this year, down from an annual rate of 10% early in 2011.

But the outlook for Chinese markets is not all bleak. After their drubbing, the stocks sell for 10 times earnings. That is a bit lower than the multiples in some other emerging markets. In addition, the Chinese economy is hardly dead. The government has said that it wants the economy to grow at an annual pace of around 7.5%. To make sure that happens, the central bank recently lowered interest rates. The government has announced new infrastructure projects and subsidies for consumer auto purchases.

All that should help keep China growing briskly, says Daisuke Nomoto, portfolio manager of Columbia Pacific/Asia Fund (CASAX). "The worst is over for China," says Nomoto. "In the third quarter of this year, we should begin to see the positive impact of all the monetary and fiscal policies."

Whether or not, the stimulus takes hold, China is likely to remain a volatile market. Trouble in Europe could send the stocks down further. Still, many investors will want to hold at least a small position in what is likely to remain a fast-growing economy.

For a solid fund, consider Guinness Atkinson China & Hong Kong (ICHKX). During the past ten years, Guinness returned 11.2% annually, outdoing 68% of China funds. Portfolio manager Edmund Harriss looks for solid companies with improving earnings and above-average returns on investment. Harriss avoids high flyers. Instead, he prefers stocks with moderate prices that are strengthening.

"In China, it does not pay to take the most expensive stocks," says Harriss, who has worked on the fund since it was started in 1994. "You can find plenty of growing companies that sell at attractive prices."

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