Global Investing

Braving emerging stocks again

It’s a brave investor who will venture into emerging markets these days, let alone start a new fund. Data from Thomson Reuters company Lipper shows declining appetite for new emerging market funds – while almost 200 emerging debt and equity funds were launched in Europe back in 2011, the tally so far  this year is just 10.

But Shaw Wagener, a portfolio manager at U.S. investor American Funds has gone against the trend, launching an emerging growth and income fund earlier this month.

It’s a great time to launch a fund if you have a long-term focus in mind. Emerging markets trailed DM in terms of performance for a while, peaking at end of 2010 so we are 3-plus years into a down market and period of significant underperformance.

He may be onto something. Some analysts have tentatively started advising clients to start dipping their toes back into water, given how cheap emerging market valuations are. Societe Generale for instance which has been negative on emerging equities for 3 years, said in a note that the sector had gone from being “priced for perfection to deep value”.

Emerging equities trade around 10 times forward earnings, compared to 14 for their developed counterparts and down from 13 times back in 2010.  Check out this graphic by @ReutersFlasseur: http://link.reuters.com/rut87v

Indian shares: disappointment may lurk

Should Indian shares really be at record highs?

The index is up 3.6 percent this year. Foreign funds have been pouring money into Mumbai shares, betting that the opposition BJP, seen as more reform-friendly than the incumbent Congress, will form the next government. They purchased $420 million worth of Indian stocks last Friday, having bought $1.4 billion over the past 15 trading sessions.

There is also the fact that the rolling crisis in emerging markets, having smacked India during its first round last May, has now moved on and is ravaging places such as Russia and Nigeria instead. The rupee has firmed almost 2 percent this year to the dollar, as last year’s 6.5 percent/GDP current account deficit has contracted to just 0.9 percent of GDP.  Many international funds such as Blackrock and JPMorgan Asset Management have Indian stocks on overweight and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s monthly survey showed investors’  underweight on India was one of the smallest for emerging markets.

Indian company earnings may have beaten forecasts by around 5 percent so far in the season. But prospects can hardly be described as attractive. Indian economic growth is running at less than 5 percent. Valuations are in line with historical averages and at a 4 percent premium to global emerging markets on a book-value basis. But John-Paul Smith at Deutsche Bank says it is “the least bad” of the BRICs and is neutral to overweight.

A boost for cheap emerging equities. So will they bite?

Emerging stocks have rallied 3 percent today after the Fed’s startling decision to leave its $85 billion-a month money-printing in place, and some markets such as Turkey are up more than 7 percent. With the first Fed hike now expected to come in 2015 and tapering starting only from December, emerging markets have effectively received a three month breather. So will the buyers return?

A lot of folks have been banging the drum about how cheap emerging markets are these days. But imminent Fed tapering has been scaring away any who might have been tempted. Plus there is the economic growth slowdown that could knock profit margins at emerging market companies. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch which runs a closely watched monthly survey of fund managers shows just in the following graphic how unloved the sector is relative to history:

So should people be buying? BofA/ML certainly thinks so: its strategist Ajay Kapur suggests emerging stocks are 20 percent undervalued. He acknowledges all the risks out there but reckons they are all in the price by now:

Emerging earnings: a lot of misses

It’s not shaping up to be a good year for emerging equities. They are almost 3 percent in the red while their developed world counterparts have gained more than 7 percent and Wall Street is at record highs. When we explored this topic last month, what stood out was the deepening profit squeeze and  steep falls in return-on-equity (ROE).  The latest earnings season provides fresh proof of this trend and is handily summarized in a Morgan Stanley note which crunches the earnings numbers for the last 2012 quarter.

The analysts found that:

–With 84 percent of emerging market companies having already reported last quarter earnings, consensus estimates have been missed by around 6 percent. A third of companies that have already reported results have beaten estimates while almost half have missed.

– Singapore, Turkey and Hong Kong top the list of countries where earnings beat expectations while earnings in Hungary, Korea and Egypt have mostly underwhelmed. Consumer durables companies recorded the biggest number and magnitude of misses at 82 percent.

America Inc. share of GDP – 12 or 3 pct?

Wall Street has been doing pretty well in recent years. Just how well is illustrated by the steady rise in corporate profits as a share of the national economy. Look at the following graphic:

Of it, HSBC writes:

The profits share of GDP in the United States must rank as one of the most chilling charts in finance.

 
What this means is that around 12 percent of American gross domestic product is going to companies in the form of after-tax profits. A year ago that figure was just over 10 percent and in 2005 it was just 6 percent. In contrast, the share of wages and salaries in the U.S. GDP fell under 50 percent i n 2010 and continues to decline. Comparable figures for the UK or Europe are harder to come by but analysts reckon the profits’ share is within historical ranges.

Base, worst and best case scenarios from Coutts

UK private bank Coutts (established in 1622, the year of the Glencore Massacre and two years before the Bank of England was founded) has been very bearish.

It still attaches a high, 25 percent chance to a partial or complete euro zone breakup and has been recommending its investors to position very defensively.

The chart below shows their base-case assumptions of S&P 500 index at 1,300 (about 3% below the current level), along with best and worst case scenarios.

How low will hedge funds go?

How bad will hedge funds’ year-end performance figures look?

According to Credit Suisse/Tremont, funds fell 6.30 percent in October after a 6.55 percent drop in September, taking losses for the first ten months to 15.54 percent.

Seven strategies are now nursing double-digit losses, with only two — managed futures and dedicated short bias — in positive territory.

Even global macro, which bets on the likes of global equity markets, world currencies, sovereign debt and commodities, is now back in the red. These funds are down 7.10 percent after substantial losses in September and October.

Star Coffey decides not to go it alone

So star hedge fund manager Greg Coffey has opted to join established firm Moore Capital.

In April, when high-performing, high-earning Coffey resigned from GLG, the market was awash with rumours that he wanted to start up his own firm, pulling in billions from investors.

However, times have changed in the hedge fund industry.

The average fund is down nearly 20 percent so far this year, according to Hedge Fund Research’s HFRX index, while emerging markets funds have taken a particular battering as markets such as Russia and China have fallen.

Hedge funds hit more turbulence

Things are going from bad to worse for hedge funds.

Hedge funds were hit when their bets went wrong in JulyHaving only just clawed back their losses after a dreadful March, the closely-watched Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Index shows hedge funds lost a hefty 2.61 percent in July after being hit by a double-whammy of market movements.

These freewheeling funds had been betting for some time that banks stocks would fall as the credit crisis ate into their profits, while also betting that commodities would rise as demand for oil, metals and food soared.

This had been working well, but in July banks bounced back because they looked so cheap to some investors, while commodities fell from some of the dizzying heights they had recently reached.