Hong Kong-Singapore Stars Fade With Boom-to-Gloom in Finance

Asia’s financial-hub twins, Hong Kong and Singapore, are facing increasing brakes on growth even before potential turmoil from a Brexit vote in their ex-colonial master, with China’s slowdown and the continuing shrinkage of the financial industry striking both.

Hong Kong’s economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter, weighed down by falling retail sales and the weakest property market in 25 years. Singapore eked out only a modest expansion in the same period, hurt by weak exports and a downturn in financial services.

Problems in the two cities are similar. Banks are finding it harder to grow profits, hiring has slowed and stock trading is in a slump. Capital inflows propelled by U.S. Federal Reserve quantitative easing and, later, by Chinese investors, are now in the rear-view mirror. While they have seen tougher times before and are building on strengths in other areas, such as tourism, the years of finance-charged growth looks to be over.