The political and economic instability in Hong Kong has weighed on the city’s stock market. More Hong Kong investors are switching to higher-achieving US stocks among which ETFs are one of the most popular choices.
However, before opening a US stock account, there are a few rules that amateur investors must know. Read on learn the basics of the US stock market and have a fee comparison of the most commonly used US stock securities accounts in Hong Kong!
Minimum fees to buy US Stocks
Hong Kong stocks’ minimum trading unit is a “lot”, the number of shares in each “lot” usually ranges from 100 to 2,000.
Let’s say you want to buy HSBC Holdings (0005) stocks. They have a minimum lot size of 400 shares. If each share costs HKD 58, the minimum account of money to buy a lot of HSBC Holdings (0005) would be over HKD 23,000 (400 shares x HKD 58 plus transaction fees).
In the US, however, the minimum trading unit of US stock is a “share”.
Take Apple Inc. (AAPL) as an example, their stock price was around USD 220 (~HKD 1,716) in October 2019 so you could start investing with just HKD 1,716!
Because of this, generally, the minimum amount you need to invest into US stocks is much lower than Hong Kong stocks.
Fee Comparison of Hong Kong’s most popular US Stock Accounts
Buying US stocks is pretty easy in Hong Kong as most banks provide US stock accounts but the fees are MUCH lower if you buy it through securities firms or robo-advisors.
These transaction costs can add up really quickly, are easily avoidable and offer no value to an investor – so just pick the broker or company with the lowest costs (based on your trading habits).
Like we said, it's cheaper to start investing with a broker and you get a much better user experience.
US Stock Exchange Fees and Taxes
Apart from commissions and platform fees charged by banks and securities firms, investors will also be charged by US regulatory authorities. Yet, it is still generally cheaper than buying Hong Kong stocks. The main fees are as follows:
*For sale trades only
Trading Hours for the US Stock Market
The trading hours of the US stock market are different in winter and summer times. In summer, the trading hours are from 9:30pm to 4am in Hong Kong time. They are one hour late in winter – from 10:30pm to 5am in Hong Kong time.
3 Major US Stock Indices
Similar to how we have the Hang Seng Index (HIS) in Hong Kong, there are 3 major US stock indices which indicate the overall market performance in the US.
- Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) – Founded in the 19th century, it measures 30 listed companies including Coca-Cola (KO), Boeing (BA) and Goldman Sachs Group (GS).
- NASDAQ Composite (NASDAQ) – Founded in 1971, its 100 constituent stocks are mainly from IT, Telecommunication and Biotech sectors, including Google (GOOG), Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT)
- S&P 500 Index (S&P 500) – Founded in 1957, its constituent stocks are more diversified, measuring 500 listed companies including Facebook (FB), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and ExxonMobil (XOM)
Pros of US Stock
- They have lower entrance fees: The minimum trading unit of US stock is only a share! And the management fee is relatively cheap. You can start investing with less money.
- They offer more and better choices: Many of the world’s top companies chose to get listed in the US. You can easily find a quality stock of interest and there are more ETFs in the US too.
- You are exempt from profits tax: Americans are required to pay investment income tax but luckily Hong Kongers don't have to! Just fill out the W-8BEN form (most securities firms will help you with this!) and declare you’re a foreigner when you open a US stock account and you’re exempt from the tax.
- They are highly regulated and transparent: The US regulatory authorities put a lot of effort into combating insider trading, market manipulation, financial fraud, etc. so its market transparency is high.
Cons of US Stock
- The time difference: The opening of the US stock market is at night in Hong Kong. It could be hard for Hongkongers to stay close to the market. If you’re following a long term strategy, then it’s not too big a deal though!
- The exchange rate: As US stocks are traded in USD, investors must pay attention to the currency conversion cost.
- More expensive monthly stock investment plans: Investors have to pay for administrative fees of about 5% of contribution in monthly stock investment plans which makes it very hard to justify! Although, since the entry cost for US stocks is much lower, you may not need a stock investment plan at all. You could just buy a few shares of various ETFs to get a diversified portfolio!
- High dividend tax rate: The US dividend tax is 30% which might weaken the returns on dividend investing.
(Banks and securities firms’ fees and service information are for reference only. Actual charges depend on in-time information provided by banks and securities firm.)