Time was when investing in emerging markets meant buying dollar bonds issued by developing countries’ governments.
The Olympic medals have all been handed out and the athletes are on their way home. Which countries surpassed expectations and which ones did worse than expected? And did this have anything to do with the state of their economies?
Earlier this year it seemed that an increase in global bullishness meant the end of the road for risk-off investment strategies and, by extension, the rise in South African equities. However, 6 months later, the band is still playing, and the ship is refusing to go down.
Another central bank has caved in and cut interest rates — South Africa lowered its key rate to a record low of 5 percent at Thursday’s meeting. In doing so, the central bank noted growth was slowing further. “Negative spillover effects (from the global economy) likely to intensify,” it said.
Interest rate meetings are coming up this week in Turkey, South Africa and Mexico. Most analysts expect no change to interest rates in any of the three countries. But chances are, the worsening global growth picture will force policymakers to soften their tone from previous months; indeed forwards markets are actually pricing an 18-20 basis-point interest rate cut in South Africa.
Who would have thought it. As fears over the euro zone’s fate, Chinese economic growth and Middle Eastern politics drive investors toward safe-haven U.S. and German bonds, some have apparently been going the other way. According to JPMorgan, bonds from so-called frontier economies such as Pakistan, Belarus and Jordan (usually considered high-risk assets) have performed exceptionally well, doing far better in fact than their peers from mainstream emerging markets. The following graphic from JPM which runs the NEXGEM sub-index of frontier debt, shows that returns on many of these bonds are running well into the double digits.
It’s a hard slog sometimes looking for new and surprising sources of global economic growth that have not already be heavily discounted by global investors, especially in the uncertain world of 2012. It’s been as hard of late to find new arguments to invest in China and quite a few people suggesting the opposite.
Emerging markets may yet pay dearly for the sins of their richer cousins. While recent financial crises have been rooted in the United States and euro zone, analysts at Credit Agricole are questioning whether a full-fledged emerging markets crisis could be on the horizon, the first since the series of crashes from Argentina to Turkey over a decade ago. The concern stems from the worsening balance of payments picture across the developing world and the need to plug big funding shortfalls.