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Money managers under the microscope

from Global Investing:

Banks lead the equity sector flows

Banks and financials stocks have had a pretty good year. The Thomson Reuters Global Financials index is up by more than 20% in the last 12 months, and although the detritus of the financial crisis still offers the occasional sting, investors are starting to see brighter spots for the industry.

That confidence is increasingly obvious in the fund flows.

Our corporate cousins at Lipper track more than 7,000 mutual funds and ETFs which are dedicated to specific industry sectors. Dig a little into the data in this subset of funds, and you start to get a pretty good picture of where the biggest bets have been placed.

Just shy of 500 of these funds are focused entirely on banks & financials. Together they hold more than $46 billion in assets.

Last month, they suffered a total net outflow of just about $1 billion, but on a one-year view, 10 months of net inflows have driven an injection of over $10 billion. It amounts to a concerted bet on the sector, particularly in the U.S. where the bulk of assets are held, with the inflows equating to 22% of the latest published assets under management. You can see the evolution over the year in the chart below; cumulative gains or losses over the 12 months are shown in the blue area; monthly flows are shown by the red bars.

from Global Investing:

Clearing a way to Russian bonds

Russian debt finally became Euroclearable today.

What that means is foreign investors buying Russian domestic rouble bonds will be able to process them through Belgian clearing house Euroclear, which transfers securities from the seller's securities account to the securities account of the buyer, while transferring cash from the account of the buyer to the account of the seller. Euroclear's links with correspondent banks in more than 40 countries means buying Russian bonds suddenly becomes easier.And safer too in theory because the title to the security receives asset protection under Belgian law. That should bring a massive torrent of cash into the OFZs, as Russian rouble government bonds are known.

In a wide-ranging note entitled "License to Clear" sent yesterday, Barclays reckons previous predictions of some $20 billion in inflows from overseas to OFZ could be understated -- it now estimates that $25 to $40 billion could flow into Russian OFZs during 2013-2o14. Around $9 billion already came last year ahead of the actual move, Barclays analysts say, but more conservative asset managers will have waited for the Euroclear signal before actually committing cash.

from Global Investing:

Yield-hungry funds lend $2bln to Ukraine

Investors just cannot get enough of emerging market bonds. Ukraine, possibly one of the weakest of the big economies in the developing world, this week returned to global capital markets for the first time in a year , selling $2 billion in 5-year dollar bonds.  Investors placed orders for seven times that amount, lured doubtless by the 9.25 percent yield on offer.

Ukraine's problems are well known, with fears even that the country could default on debt this year.  The $2 billion will therefore come as a relief. But the dangers are not over yet, which might make its success on bond markets look all the more surprising.

from Global Investing:

We’re all in the same boat

The withering complexity of a four-year-old global financial crisis -- in the euro zone, United States or increasingly in China and across the faster-growing developing world -- is now stretching the minds and patience of even the most clued-in experts and commentators. Unsurprisingly, the average householder is perplexed, increasingly anxious and keen on a simpler narrative they can rally around or rail against. It's fast becoming a fertile environment for half-baked conspiracy theories, apocalypse preaching and no little political opportunism. And, as ever, a tempting electoral ploy is to convince the public there's some magic national solution to problems way beyond borders.

For a populace fearful of seemingly inextricable connections to a wider world they can't control, it's not difficult to see the lure of petty nationalism, protectionism and isolationism. Just witness national debates on the crisis in Britain, Germany, Greece or Ireland and they are all starting to tilt toward some idea that everyone may be better off on their own -- outside a flawed single currency in the case of Germany, Greece and Ireland and even outside the European Union in the case of some lobby groups in Britain. But it's not just a debate about a European future, the U.S.  Senate next week plans to vote on legisation to crack down on Chinese trade due to currency pegging despite the interdependency of the two economies.  And there's no shortage of voices saying China should somehow stand aloof from the Western financial crisis, even though its spectacular economic ascent over the past decade was gained largely on the back of U.S. and European demand.

Surfing the sector flows

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- By Merieme Boutayeb, Research Analyst at Lipper. The views expressed are her own. PARIS, April 13 (Reuters) – A successful asset management strategy requires a thorough reading and consistent analysis of macroeconomic events and cycles for fund managers to identify sources of performance and capture them at the right time via appropriate asset allocation. An approach which analyzes the performance and flows of different sectors in light of market events and anticipations, is a concrete example that can be undertaken with Lipper data. There are 20 listed equity sector-based Lipper classifications, which correspond as of the end of February 2011 to a universe of 946 primary funds (2,030 share classes in total) domiciled in Europe and invested worldwide. Analyzing the performance realised and the flows captured or lost by these categories during the last five years provides an insight into trends which have dominated investment thinking. It is worth noting that the sectors favoured by investors year after year are very volatile and do not necessarily reflect the best performers, with the exception of funds invested in natural resources. Since 2006 these funds have had the best figures among the Lipper categories in terms of inflows (+11.83 million euros for 2006, +19.86 million euros for 2007, +6.013 billion euros for 2009, and +1.815 billion euros for 2010). The only negative year was 2008, when outflows of 4.491 billion euros were recorded in the aftermath of the subprime crisis and on lingering fears of global recession. During that same year 2008, all equity sector-based Lipper classifications (with one exception) experienced massive outflows – 12.62 billion euros in total – reflecting a widespread feeling of uncertainty. Funds invested in gold and precious metals were the only ones benefiting from the situation; they were used by investors as an investment haven after the crisis and collected 488 million euros for 2008. But interest in these funds declined severely in 2009 – with outflows of 55 million euros – despite the fact that they recorded the best performance over the year – up nearly 57 percent. Favoured instead were sectors such as natural resources (inflows of 6.013 billion euros), real estate (inflows of 1.113 billion euros), and banking and financial services (inflows of 304 million euros). TECH FLOWS Unsurprisingly, the banking sector has been particularly abused since 2007, following the bursting of the subprime bubble with outflows of 1.297 billion euros for 2007 and outflows of 264 million euros for 2008. The trend was reversed in 2009, reflected by inflows of 304 million euros, as investor confidence was rebuilt. This upbeat sentiment faded abruptly in 2010 on the difficulties encountered by some euro zone countries in managing their debt and on mounting fears of an eventual spillover. It is interesting to note that funds invested in information technology are on the road to recovery in light of encouraging results since 2009. Continual and massive outflows were recorded after the bursting of the tech bubble (still hitting 1.386 billion euros for 2008), but the trend reversed, with 182.5 million euros of inflows for 2009 and 1.080 billion euros of inflows for 2010. This was accompanied by a turnaround in performance; down 43.15 percent for 2008 turned into a gain of 51.78 percent for 2009 and a return of +22.30 percent for 2010. The pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector is struggling to evolve as a defensive sector as illustrated by the disappointing returns and significant outflows recorded during the last five years. In 2007, for example the health sector was the only so-called defensive sector that did not attract inflows (1.567 billion euros of outflows), compared with the 1.498 billion euros of inflows into utilities funds and the 1.258 billion euros of inflows into funds invested in noncyclical consumer goods and services. Funds invested in real estate posted the strongest outflows – from 6.173 billion euros of inflows for 2006 to 2.313 billion euros of outflows for 2007. The year 2008 was also catastrophic, with more than 3 billion euros of outflows. Since then, real estate funds have managed to claw some of that back with 1.113 billion euros of inflows for 2009 although 2010 saw only 77 million euros of net inflows. Focusing on last year, the funds invested in cyclical sectors were the most successful. The fear of a global recession had dissipated, thanks to the dynamism of emerging economies, including China. The sectors that topped the rankings were the cyclical goods and services consumers sector (automobile, luxury, household goods), with an positive return of 33.76 percent on average and 1.216 billion euros of inflows. The general industry sector (aerospace, electronic equipment), posted positive returns of 29.50 percent on average and 7.73 million euros of inflows. Since the beginning of this year, the market has witnessed an important sector rotation, with the acclaimed sectors of the previous year lagging behind. During the first two months of 2011, the cyclical goods and services consumers sector lost 0.68 percent and posted 135 million euros of outflows, while the gold and precious metals sector decreased 6.00 percent and recorded 110 million euros of outflows. Investors are more exposed to the natural resources sector (2.557 billion euros of inflows), the information technology sector (880 million euros of inflows), and the banking sector (247 million euros of inflows). The beginning of 2011 has been very eventful, making it difficult to comment with certainty on the development of sectors for the remainder of the year. The uncertainty about oil prices given political turmoil in the MENA region and the real danger of contagion, the unremitting difficulties of the peripheral euro zone countries to meet their sovereign debt obligations, the awareness of nuclear risk, and the inflationary pressures in emerging economies — hitherto the main driver of global growth — are key factors to watch carefully. In this uncertain economic environment it seems judicious to focus on noncyclical sectors such as food processing, tobacco, and information technology. Gold, which has been neglected by investors since the beginning of this year, is likely to attract important flows. Instability in the MENA region will push up the oil price and thus support the oil sector. The pharmaceutical sector is one to monitor because of the eventual impact of the development of generic drugs and the drastic reductions in public spending, while the utilities sector could be affected by the increased profile of nuclear risk. (Editing by Joel Dimmock) ((merieme.boutayeb@thomsonreuters.com; +33 (0)1 49 49 50 56))

By Merieme Boutayeb, Research Analyst at Lipper. The views expressed are her own.

A successful asset management strategy requires a thorough reading and consistent analysis of macroeconomic events and cycles for fund managers to identify sources of performance and capture them at the right time via appropriate asset allocation.

The Naked Truth

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By Ed Moisson, Head of UK & Cross-Border Research at Lipper

Do independent asset managers perform better than bank-run funds?

Lipper was recently approached to analyse the difference in performance between funds operated by broader financial services companies (banks and insurers) and those managed by ‘pure play’ asset managers.

This research came in the wake of comments made by Peter Hargreaves, founder of IFA Hargreaves Lansdown, who said in September that many funds in the UK run by banks were “seriously crap”.

Utilities vs banks: The evidence

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Alpesh Patel caused quite a stir on Britain’s Radio 4 this morning. The CEO of boutique investment house Praefinium Partners argued that Bob Diamond was on “a suicide mission to bring down capitalism”. No word yet from the Barclays CEO on that one.

Maybe that was just the line his PRs had promised to the BBC producers to get him on air, though, and there is more logic to Patel’s more substantial point about value creation in the banking sector in relation to bonuses and pay.

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