It wasn’t a good year for emerging market bonds, with all three main debt benchmarks posting negative returns for the first time since 2008. But the benchmark indices run by JPMorgan nevertheless saw a modest increase in market capitalisation, and assets of the funds that benchmark to these indices also rose.
The received wisdom is dollar strength = weaker emerging market currencies. See here for my colleague Mike Dolan’s take on this. But as Mike’s article does point out, all emerging markets are not equal. It follows therefore that any waves of dollar strength and higher U.S. yields will hit them to varying degrees.
There seems to be no end to the rip-roaring bond rally across emerging Europe. Yields on Turkish lira bonds fell to fresh record lows today after an interest rate cut and stand now more than a whole percentage point below where they started the year.
Happy birthday EMBI! The index group, the main benchmark for emerging market bond investors, turns 20 this year. When officially launched on Dec 31 1993, the world was a different place. The Mexican, Asian and Russian financial crises were still ahead, as was Argentina’s $100 billion debt default. The euro zone didn’t exist, let alone its debt crisis. Emerging debt was something only the most reckless investors dabbled in.
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.
It’s turning out to be a great year for emerging debt. Returns on sovereign dollar bonds have topped 10 percent already this year on the benchmark EMBI Global index, compiled by JP Morgan. That’s better than any other fixed income or equity category, whether in emerging or developed markets. Total 2012 returns could be as much as 12 percent, JPM reckons.
Just a month and half into 2012, emerging local currency bonds have already returned 9 percent, one of best performing asset classes. But the rally has further to go, says J.P. Morgan which runs the most widely used emerging debt indices. The bank is now predicting its benchmark local currency debt index, the GBI-EM, to end the year with returns of 16 percent, upping its original expectation for 11.9 percent.