Research Radar: “State lite”?

April 26, 2012

The FOMC’s relatively anodyne conclusions left world markets with little new to chew on Thursday, with some poor European banking results for Q1 probably get more attention.  Broadly, world stocks were a touch higher while the dollar and US Treasury yields were slightly lower. European bank stocks fell 2% and dragged down European indices. Euro sovereign yields were slightly higher, with markets eyeing Friday’s Italian bond auction. Volatility gauges were a touch lower and crude oil prices nudged up.

Following is a selection of some of the day’s interesting research snippets:

Deutsche Bank’s emerging markets strategists John Paul Smith and Mehmet Beceren said they retain their negative bias toward global emerging market equities both in absolute and relative terms, highlighting Argentina’s expropriation of YPF from Repsol as another negative. “We anticipate that so-called state capitalism will continue to be a negative driver, as it has been since mid-2010, since the poor economic backdrop makes the corporate sector a tempting target for governments wishing to boost their popularity or find additional resources to add to the relatively low levels of social protection across most emerging economies.” They added that they remain overweight “state lite” emerging markets such as Taiwan, Mexico and Turkey and underweight Russia, China, Brazil and South Korea.

Morgan Stanley’s James Lord thinks the rally in Hungary’s markets following Tuesday’s decision by the EU to reopen negotiations on financial assistance is justified but much may now be in the price. He said MS would prefer to wait for some pullback before looking for more bullish trades.  On a relative basis, Hungary 5-year CDS is now 60bp wider than Spain’s and MS said that while this gap could close much further  it was hard to see how Hungary CDS rates could trade below Spain.  “Indeed, if Spain goes into serious financial trouble, it could represent a systemic risk for all Europe, and funding stress would likely increase substantially. Given the strong dependence of Hungary towards the EU, it would be difficult to argue for Hungary to trade through Spain on any sustained basis.”

Ashmore Investment Management’s Jerome Booth restates his bullish case for emerging markets with 10 points that conclude with the line:  “the best way to lose money without really trying is not to invest in emerging markets.” His points include warnings about equating past volatility with risk, passive investing (where he points out that only 12% of emerging debt is represented by available indices) and seeing emerging currency volatility against the dollar as an emerging problem rather than a U.S. one (“It is the dollar which is volatile”.)

Legal & General Investment Managers’ Ben Bennett argues that central bank money printing will be needed for some time as banks’ bad loans are still way too high for them to be “in a position to drive the money printing presses once again”. Explaining QE as a nationalisation of money printing presses normally operated by the commercial banks, he says the success of either form of money creation can only be judged by the productive nature of use to which that money is put. The pre-crisis lending into the property bubble was negative case in point, and the relative success of QE lending to the banks will be even more complex to judge.  “The investment lesson to be learnt is not to follow the money, but to analyse the usefulness of what it is being spent on.”

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