Summer, but not so fun…

Persistent sunshine with no rain. Finance workers perspiring in their suits on busy underground stations. Small talk revolving endlessly about the heat. Sound familiar? No, this was not England but Hong Kong, where the Lens went in early June during an unseasonable dry spell.


Of course, Hongkongers are used to hot weather and their buildings are air-conditioned for it. Sooner or later, we were told, a typhoon would arrive and temperatures would drop.


But storm clouds were not the only blot on the horizon.


In the US, President Trump was ratcheting up his campaign to impose tariffs on Chinese imports. The threat of a “trade war” had formerly been downplayed by Chinese equity analysts, who said domestic and not American demand propels China’s economy. Now, these analysts seemed less optimistic.


The problem was that Trump’s insistence on tariffs would provoke a tit-for-tat response from Beijing. Even if the economic effects were mild, the impact on investor sentiment could be serious. Sure enough, the Shanghai Composite Index fell sharply after our visit, losing a tenth of its value over the course of June.


The day before the Lens was due to leave Hong Kong, the firmament opened and a thunderstorm drenched the island. Flights were delayed as thumping rain washed through the streets. For a territory accustomed to tropical cyclones, such precipitation was not unusual. But investors in Chinese equities may have perceived an omen. War is coming.