For more than two decades, Hong Kong has had an expression known as the “Adam Cheng effect”, which suggests that the market would retreat every time artist Adam Cheng Siu-chow has a new TV drama coming.

For unknown reasons, this particular “indicator” correlated well with the collapse of the Hang Seng Index from 1992 when Cheng played stockbroker Ting Hai who won – and eventually lost his wealth – through short selling the market.

The CLSA brokerage called this the “Adam Cheng” effect. It estimated the blue-chip index fell from 0.1% to 25% during the one or two months the TV drama played – and suggested the market tumbled more with sad endings.

Now the theory will be put to the test again because the actor, now 72, has just launched a new drama series called “Psycho Detective 2” on ViuTV. So, all business-minded folk are watching to see if the market’s four-month rise might end.

Cheng plays the part of a Maoshan Taoist, or an exorcist, in the series. To make it even spookier, the drama was performed by several characters who appeared in the 1992 classic “The Greed of Man” in TVB.

The Hong Kong market has been gaining this year and on a roll for four months. According to mandatory provident fund (MPF) consultancy firm Gain Mile, the return on an average pension was up 9.8% to date for this year’s gain, thanks to the market’s rising momentum.

As a result, the average MPF return per capita was HK$2,663 (US$339) so far this year, or about HK$18,678 in the year-to-date.

While “Sell in May” usually works after the spring rebound but before the late autumn rally, one should note that the “Adam Cheng effect” failed to work last year when he appeared in the TV drama “Ever Night“, in which Cheng played a powerful Taoist master, who looked like Gandalf from the ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Adam Cheng, left, as a Taoist master in Ever Night … looking rather like Gandalf, right. Photo: Weibo, Wikipedia

 

 

Some stock commentators tried to explain what had happened to the “Adam Cheng effect”. They said it is very weak now as many young investors may not know a lot about the male artist or may never have watched ‘The Greed of Man’.

And in fact, young people don’t really watch as much TV nowadays, as they are busy viewing Netflix or Hollywood movies such as ‘Avengers: Endgame’.

If this is the case, the Psycho Detective 2 should also have not a strong impact on the stock market, especially when the United States and China are reportedly going to reach a trade agreement that will further improve market sentiment.

However, many older investors in Hong Kong have become risk averse due to the reappearance of Cheng on TV. They tend to blame him whenever there is any correction in the Hang Seng Index.

In response to reporters asking if he will cause the market to collapse, Cheng said he expected the market will go up – and reminded the short-sellers to cover their moves.

For the market mover and shaker, he prefers blue-chip stocks with good dividends.