How good was 2012 for bond markets? Very good, by the look of the many records broken.
With Shinzo Abe’s new government intent on prodding the Bank of Japan into unlimited monetary easing, it is hardly surprising that the yen has slumped to two-year lows against the dollar. This could lead to even more flows into overseas markets from Japanese investors seeking higher-yield homes for their money.
By Alice Baghdjian
Interest rate cuts in emerging markets, credit ratings upgrades and above all the tidal wave of liquidity from Western central banks have sent almost $90 billion into emerging bond markets this year (estimate from JP Morgan). Much of this cash has flowed to locally-traded emerging currency debt, pushing yields in many markets to record lows again and again. Local currency bonds are among this year’s star asset classes, returning over 15 percent, Thomson Reuters data shows.
This year has been all about interest rate cuts. As Western central banks took their policy-easing efforts to ever new levels, emerging markets had little recourse but to cut rates as well. Interest rates in many countries from Brazil to the Czech Republic are at record lows.
Emerging market currencies have been a source of frustration for investors this year. With central banks overwhelmingly in rate-cutting mode and export growth slowing, most currencies have performed poorly. That has been a bit of a dampener for local currency debt — while returns in dollar terms have been robust at 13 percent, currency appreciation has contributed just 1.5 percent of that, according to JP Morgan.
A mixed bag this week on emerging policy and one that shows the growing divergence between dovish central Europe and an increasingly hawkish (with some exceptions) Latin America.
Global Investing has commented before on how strongly the world’s riskiest bonds — from the so-called frontier markets such as Mongolia, Nigeria and Guatemala — have performed. NEXGEM, the frontier component of the bond index family run by JP Morgan, is on track to outperform all other fixed income classes this year with returns of over 20 percent., the bank tells clients in a note today. Just to compare, broader emerging dollar bonds on the EMBI Global index have returned some 16 percent year-to-date while local currency emerging debt is up 13 percent.
This week’s interest rate meetings in the developing world are highlighting that despite slower economic growth, inflation remains a problem for many countries. In some cases it could constrain policymakers from cutting interest rates, or least from cutting as much as they would like.