TAIPEI (TheStreet) -- China's current Five-Year Plan implores the people to go buy stuff - and that translates into a potential "buy" signal for many stocks as well.The central planning blueprint aims to mute China's reliance on exports, and on foreign countries, by raising consumption. Although it's just a plan, experience tells us that when it expires in 2015, the government will come out and say its goals have been met. The social security net is noticeably stronger and wages measurably higher, planners in Beijing will say, both ideal for more spending and less saving. The Communist leadership won't be wholly off the mark even if it inflates some numbers in 2015 or if a visitor to Beijing still finds child beggars on the sidewalks and migrant workers living six to a tiny brick shack. The idea is to create what KPMG China calls a "macro-environment that encourages domestic spending" rather than directly herd people into stores. Previous central planning has already nudged the environment in that direction for the sake of social as well as economic stability. So markets will trust that consumption will have gone up and will start picking stocks among the Chinese firms that will have grown on the boost in spending. An investor could wait for the celebratory proclamations in 2015 or start now by buying shares of companies that build shopping malls, book vacations or churn out hard-not-to-buy consumer products such as packaged food. Analysts surveyed in May suggested grabbing stocks of offshore-listed Chinese companies that are connected to the expected buying boom and show solid individual track records. Shares of numerous large Chinese firms are selling relatively cheap, after falling since last August because of investor fears about economic problems in Europe and the United States. Low share prices of otherwise stable firms have little or nothing to do with China itself. That means they may be artificially cheap today. If the Five-Year Plan spurs consumption, bottom lines should increase, and with them share prices. (Economic malaise in Europe could keep prices low, however, because traditional investors usually regard anything from China as a risky buy.)
William Yuen, investment associate director for Invesco in Asia, calls it a matter of logic. He says the Five-Year Plan "will lead to an uplifting of 'discretionary' spending or 'trading-up' trends that will benefit companies that are exposed to such trends - such as some of the companies in the consumer sector." Chinese firms in general have offered investment returns of about 10% so far this year after a discouraging show in 2011, market analysts in Asia say. A diversified equities portfolio could give back as much as 15% this year. If shopping solo rather than buying ready-made funds, try Hong Kong-listed China Mengniu Dairy (2319.HK), a maker of everyday milk products. It reported a record income of about 37 billion yuan (US$5.8 billion) last year but has lost 25% of its share value since a past-year peak in August. Shoppers can buy its colorful cartoon-decorated cartons of milk in most any Chinese supermarket. Imagine the stock prices in 2015 after today's depressed shares have been slurped up. If stock shopping on Nasdaq, explore Ctrip.com ( CTRP), a Chinese online travel agency whose share prices have tumbled 62% since August. The agency sells air tickets and makes hotel bookings for domestic travelers as well as some of the tens of millions headed overseas every year. I booked air tickets through Ctrip about 10 years ago with no delays or surcharges, just courteous service. Last year, its 2011 revenues went up 21% to 3.5 billion yuan. Book a few shares also with fellow Nasdaq-listed online travel agency eLong ( LONG). Share prices of the Chinese company have dropped about 40% over the past year despite a 2011 revenue increase of 22% to 586.2 million yuan. eLong, founded in 1999, specializes in discount international airfares and rooms in 2,600 hotels over 220 Chinese cities. Consider the shares of China's top builders of hotels or shopping malls, both of which stand to gain directly from increased consumption. Their state backing and involvement in an ever-booming industry have earned those developers strong reviews among greater China investment advisers. Chinese builders, whether they admit it or not, usually enjoy support from government agencies that don't hesitate to spend money on new roads, airports, hotels, malls or "achievement projects" which are monumental, expensive structures that may get little public use but give the impression that local officials are on the move.
Among the gainers will be China Resources Land (1109.HK), a property developer and manager. Its stock prices have ducked the market slump of last August, so share purchases would be for long-term safety rather than short-term profits. Its massive parent company China Resources Group (0291.HK), an importer and operator of upper-end supermarkets, gives the developer extra strong backing. On Nasdaq, fellow builder China HGS Real Estate ( HGSH) should grow as it pursues commercial as well as residential high-rises in the country's fast-expanding third-tier and fourth-tier cities. Share prices of the 17-year-old firm based in west-central China have tumbled 80% since August. But in five years, probably sooner, expect dividends.