Global Investing

Three snapshots for Wednesday

Saudi Arabia has repeated publicly it would prime its pumps to meet any shortfall in exports from fellow OPEC member Iran, this chart shows their production since 1980:

Unwelcome news for British finance minister George Osborne ahead of today’s budget – February public sector borrowing comes in at £15.2bn against expectations for £8bn.

Along with the rise in bond yields, expectations for interest rates at end 2013 and 2014 have started to pick up:

 

 

Three snapshots for Monday

The NAHB U.S. homebuilder sentiment index held at 28, below economists’ expectations for 30.

Apple will initiate a regular quarterly dividend of $2.65 a share in July and will buy back up to $10 billion of its stock starting in fiscal 2013.

Energy leads the way for commodities this year, but with a big divergence between the components – gasoline sitting at the top while natural gas sits near the bottom.

What chances true democracy in oil-rich Iran?

Truly, oil can be a curse. Having it may enrich a country (more likely its rulers) but it does not seem condusive to democracy. And the more oil a country produces, the less likely it is to make the transition to democracy, according to research from investment bank Renaisssance Capital.

So as Iran goes to the polls today, what are the chances it will become a democracy? (Iran itself could argue, reasonably enough, that it is the most democratic country in the region — everyone over the age of 18, including women, are allowed to vote, though the choice of candidates is restricted)

Surprisingly, the Renaissance report’s author Charles Robertson concludes, Iran does have a chance to achieve democracy, though probably not this year. He says no oil exporting country that produces more than 150,000 barrels per day of oil per million of population has ever achieved a transition to democracy (note Norway was already a democracy before it found oil). But others which produce less oil have done so, notably Algeria, Gabon, Congo Indonesia, Nigeria and Ecuador (Some of these democracies are clearly flawed). Robertson writes:

European corporate bonds flourishing

A new set of data from Thomson Reuters sheds light on blossoming European corporate bond activity.

Here are the main findings:

– European corporate debt totals $75 billion so far during 2012, up 83% over the same period in 2011, and a year-to-date total only surpassed by 2009 in the last decade.  January 2012 saw $48 billion raised, the strongest month since March 2011 ($50 billion).  With a week to go before the end of the month, February issuance is already up 68% over February 2011.

– German, UK and French borrowers dominate the European corporate bond market, accounting for 69% of all issuance. The Energy & Power and Industrials sectors are particularly prevalent in Europe, accounting for over 44% of the market.

Venezuela — high risk, higher yield

Venezuela's Chavez with Lukashenko of Belarus

Which bond would you rather buy — one issued by a country with an unpredictable leader but huge oil reserves, or one with  a dictatorial president as well as empty coffers? The answer should be a no brainer. Not so. The countries are Venezuela and Belarus, and a basic comparison of their debt profiles shows how strangely risk can be priced in emerging markets.

Venezuela’s 2022 dollar bond yields 15.5 percent while the 2022 issue from state oil firm PDVSA trades at 17 percent yield. Venezuelan debt pays a 1200 basis point premium to U.S. Treasuries, according to the EMBI Global bond index.

Now check out Belarus. Dire public finances, a huge recent currency devaluation, and seeking an $8 billion bailout from the IMF, yet able to pay 11 percent on its 2018 issue. Its yield premium to Treasuries is 900 bps or three percentage points less than Venezuela.

from Summit Notebook:

Is emerging Europe out of the woods yet?

A surge in portfolio inflows is flooding into emerging central Europe, although yield-hungry investors are picking solid HUNGARY IMF/MATOLCSYpolicy and higher growth over countries still struggling to put the crisis behind them.

After deep contractions across the region, a two-speed recovery is underway, with countries boasting better debt fundamentals like Poland and the Czech Republic for the moment ahead of those who depend on foreign lending.

Investors are also dipping into countries like Hungary, but struggles by the new centre-right Fidesz government to get its budget deficit under control mean it is lagging for now, along with fellow International Monetary Fund benefactor Romania.

from MacroScope:

More than green shoots

MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger Stewart Armer. Stewart is head of socially responsible investing at Fortis Investments. He outlines here how huge stimulus plans could boost sustainable economic development. His team blogs on this issue at SRI Blog.

While we are still debating if the worst is over, it has become clear that economic crisis has turned into an opportunity for sustainable economic development.

Our recent analysis of the fiscal stimulus packages of G-20 countries shows that almost half of the announced spending will be spent on the environment and social sectors.  The major recipients include healthcare ($333 billion), sustainable transport ($209 billion), education ($151 billion), social housing ($95 billion), clean and efficient energy ($84 billion), and clean water and air ($68 billion).

More than a nice-to-have, buy-side considers its actions

More than a “nice to have,” investor sentiment is running heavily on the side of environment, social and governance (ESG) factors, according to the latest Thomson Reuters Perception Snapshot.

Feedback from 25 global buy-side investors found that 84 percent evaluate ESG criteria to some degree when making an investment decision.

The remaining 16 percent say ESG issues are not considered until a company’s ability to generate high returns is hindered by these factors.

from Summit Notebook:

Nasdaq president to finance companies: come hither

A fertile planting ground for tech, biotech and even some energy offerings, Nasdaq OMX has historically struggled to lure listings in some other areas, notably financial services.

Now, that could be about to change, Nasdaq OMX President Magnus Bocker said at the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit. As Nasdaq looks for ways to attract new listings and end a virtual drought in IPOs, it sees financial services firms as one of the most promising areas.

That Nasdaq would at least be hoping to narrow the gap in financial services listings with NYSE, the traditional ruler of the space, is not as out of left field as it might sound.

from Commodity Corner:

Correlation Between Oil and Equities Markets

oil-vs-stock-market

Oil prices have been trading in an unusually strong positive correlation with equities markets over the past few months on hopes that signs of an economic recovery could mean a boost for energy demand.

But with oil and product inventories swelling and little sign of demand improving in the United States and other big developed economies, analysts warn that the linkage may be hard to maintain, especially if U.S. motorists cut back on vacations this summer.