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from Global Investing:

Buying back into emerging markets

After almost a year of selling emerging markets, investors seem to be returning in force. The latest to turn positive on the asset class is asset and wealth manager Pictet Group (AUM: 265 billion pounds) which said on Tuesday its asset management division (clarifies division of Pictet) was starting to build positions on emerging equities and local currency debt. It has an overweight position on the latter for the first time since it went underweight last July.

Local emerging debt has been out of favour with investors because of how volatile currencies have been since last May, For an investor who is funding an emerging market investments from dollars or euros, a fast-falling rand can wipe out any gains he makes on a South African bond. But the rand and its peers such as the Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Brazilan real -- at the forefront of last year's selloff --  have stabilised from the lows hit in recent months.  According to Pictet Asset Management:

Valuations of emerging market currencies have fallen to a point where they are now starkly at odds with such economies’ fundamentals. Emerging currencies are, on average, trading at almost two standard deviations below their equilibrium level (which takes into account a country’s net foreign asset holdings, inflation rate and its relative productivity).

What's more, interest rates in all these countries have risen since the selloff kicked off last May, in some cases by hundreds of basis points. That makes running short positions on emerging currencies and local debt too costly, analysts say.  What's also helping is the sharp volatility decline across broader currency markets, with Reuters data showing one-month euro/dollar implied volatility near its lowest since the third quarter of 2007. That has helped revive carry trades -- the practice of selling low-yield currencies in favour of higher-yield assets  Low volatility and high carry - that's a great backdrop for emerging markets. No wonder that last week saw cash return to emerging debt funds after first quarter outflows of over $17 billion. Pictet again:

from MacroScope:

A week before emerging-market turmoil, a prescient exchange on just how much the Fed cares

photo

The last seven days has been a glaring example of fallout from the cross-border carry trade. That's the sort of trade, well known in currency markets, where investors borrow funds in low-rate countries and invest them in higher-rate ones. Some $4 trillion is estimated to have flooded into emerging markets since the 2008 financial crisis to profit off the ultra accommodate policies of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and the Bank of England. Now that central banks in developed economies are looking to reverse course and eventually raise rates, that carry trade is unraveling fast, resulting in the brutal sell-off in emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina over the last week.

The Fed's decision on Wednesday to keep cutting its stimulus effectively ignores the turmoil in such developing countries. And while the Fed may well be right not to overreact, it makes one wonder just how much attention major central banks pay to the carry trade and its global effects -- and it brings to mind a prescient exchange between some of the brightest lights of western economics, just a week before emerging markets were to run off the rails.

from Global Investing:

Rupiah decline – don’t worry

Indonesia has just given the go-ahead for another leg down in the rupiah. It has cut its forecasts for the exchange rate to 9,700 per dollar compared to the 9,200 level at which the central bank used to step in. The currency has duly weakened and nervous foreigners have rushed to hedge exposure -- 3-month NDFs price the rupiah at almost 10,000 to the dollar. The  rupiah last week hit a three-year low, its weakness coming on top of a dismal 2012 which saw it fall 6 percent as the current account deficit worsened. Traders in Jakarta are reporting dollar hoarding by exporters.

All that is spooking foreigners who own more than 30 percent of the domestic bond market. The currency weakness hit them hard last year as Indonesian bonds returned just 6 percent, a third of the sector's 16 percent average (see graphic).

from Global Investing:

A yen for emerging markets

Global Investing has written several times about Japanese mom-and-pop investors'  adventures in emerging markets. Most recently, we discussed how the new government's plan to prod the Bank of Japan into unlimited monetary easing could turn more Japanese into intrepid yield hunters.  Here's an update.

JP Morgan analysts calculate that EM-dedicated Japanese investment trusts, known as toshin, have seen inflows of $7 billion ever since the U.S. Fed announced its plan to embark on open-ended $40-billion-a-month money printing.  That's taken their assets under management to $67 billion. And in the week ended Jan 2, Japanese flows to emerging markets amounted to $234 million, they reckon. This should pick up once the yen debasement really gets going -- many are expecting a 100 yen per dollar exchange rate by end-2013  (it's currently at 88).

from Global Investing:

Hard times for EM in QE-less world of higher US yields

Now that the Fed appears to have dashed any lingering hopes for an imminent QE3, what's next for emerging markets? Most observers put this year's stellar performance of emerging bonds, currencies and equities largely down to the various money-printing or cheap money operations in the developed world. That's kept core government bond yields bumping along near record lows and benefited higher-yielding emerging assets.

Many would add that in any case a solid economic recovery in the United States should be fairly good news for the rest of the world too. Not so, says HSBC. It argues that a better U.S. outlook is not necessarily good news for emerging markets simply because the side effect of economic improvement is a stronger dollar and higher Treasury yields and that's an environement in which EM assets tend to underperform.

from Eric Burroughs:

The carry trade never dies

It never does, and believe me I know after covering the biggest one ever from 2005-2008 while stationed in Tokyo (see PRDCs). Yes, bouts of volatility will spark carry trade unwinds. Some unwinds are bigger than others, with 2008 being the mother of all carry trade unwinds. But the simple fact is that using cheap funds to buy other stuff – even just higher-yielding currencies – is a bonafide strategy that works well over time, and only except in the most extreme cases of volatility. Of course there are risks, as with any strategy, and you would want good warning signals on when to unwind to beat the crowd rushing for the exits at the same time.

Still, this yen carry trade is likely just in the beginning stages. Our BOJ sources have said they are worried about a suddenly weak yen at a time when Japan is needing to import even more energy and stuff for reconstruction. Let’s see. At the end of the day, the BOJ is underwriting another carry trade. So is the Fed. The ECB’s rate hike – whatever you think about hiking rates while the third euro zone member in the past year is getting a sovereign debt bailout – has underscored how the Fed is going to lag, and that means the dollar remains a carry funding currency.

from Commentaries:

Carrying the dollar lower

There's been lots of hand wringing over the fate of the dollar, with its recent slide giving rise to, in the words of blogger Macroman, the "dollar going down forever" crowd. Data released from the U.S. Treasury on foreign capital flows didn't help matters. Seems in July foreign investors wanted to put their funds elsewhere.

Lots of ink has already been spilled on the well worn arguments that blame reckless borrowing by the US government and the growing movement toward establishing an alternative world currency as the drivers behind the dollar's decline.

from Commentaries:

A compelling case for carry in Treasuries

Under normal circumstances, U.S. Treasuries should probably be getting clobbered.

The worst of the credit crisis is over, the economy is expected to snap back in the second half of the year, and the appetite for riskier, higher-yielding assets should be siphoning off demand from boring, safe-haven assets like Treasuries.

from Global Investing:

Carry on falling

Graphic evidence from Investec Asset Management (below) highlighting the demise of the carry trade. It shows returns from borrowing low-yielding currencies such as Japanese yen to buy high-yielding ones over the past 7-1/2 years or so.  There has been a roughy 50 percent decline since the end of July.

from Global Investing:

End of carry trade unwind?

Merrill Lynch's monthly poll of fund managers around the world has a bit of a surprise in the small print. More investors now reckon the Japanese yen is overvalued than see it as undervalued. This is the first time this has been the case since Merrill began asking the question, said by staff to be about eight years ago.

It clearly reflects a 13 percent dive in dollar/yen this year and a 24 percent plunge in euro/yen. But does the new view of value suggest that the unwinding of the carry trade is over? Another question from the Merrill poll shows hedge fund deleveraging levelling off.

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