Global Investing

Buy more yen… to increase reserve returns

Japan has not been a sexy destination for investment. In an environment of rising sovereign risk, Japan’s huge debt burden (+200% and rising) and lack of triple-A rating (Japan is rated AA-, Aa3 and AA by the main rating agencies) are not something that would attract the world’s investors, including the powerful central bank reserve managers.

However, the yen is a different story. Enjoying a safe-haven status, the Japanese currency is staying just below its all-time high around 75.90 per dollar, while it also rose to an 11-year peak against the euro in January.

JP Morgan,whose asset management arm manages $70 billion for 65 official sector clients including central banks and sovereign wealth funds, says reserve managers have been diversifying into non-G4 currencies but the strategy has not performed well.

Instead, it says, they should buy more yen.

“Diversification has targeted cyclical assets such as commodity currencies, which impart more leverage than safety to a portfolio. A much higher allocation to structural funding currencies such as the yen is required for reserve managers concerned with volatility and drawdown,” JPM says in a note to clients.

According to the latest reserve data from the IMF, central banks — which control reserves of over $10 trillion worldwide — hold 60 percent in dollars, 27 percent in euros and 4 percent in sterling and yen respectively.

Emerging bonds: crawling out of the woodwork

Now that markets appear to have decided that a $1 trillion stabilisation package from the European Union is enough to soothe global nerves and ward off a sovereign debt crisis, emerging market sovereigns and corporates may start to issue bonds again.

Emerging market debt issuance was heading for a bumper year — at more than $100 billion issued so far — before investors started to fear an imminent default by Greece and markets froze up.  

But a return this week in emerging sovereign debt spreads below the psychologically key threshold of 300 basis points over U.S. Treasuries is likely to encourage issuers back again.

from MacroScope:

South Africa sovereign risk

MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger Peter Attard Montalto. Peter is emerging market economist at Nomura International and here outlines why he is cautiously constructive on the issue of sovereign risk in South Africa.

Recent events in South Africa have sent some conflicting signals to investors about sovereign risks. On the one hand there was some regulatory flip-flopping over the Vodacom listing given objections from the union organisation COSATU, which raised questions about the influence of unions in Jacob Zuma’s administration. On the other hand the sovereign issuing some $1.5 billion was highly successful and oversubscribed.

With Zuma recently elected on a platform of change for his domestic audience and continuation of old policies when speaking to investors, there is a raft of new ministers and new ministries and quite a bit of policy uncertainty. No foreign investor will deny South Africa’s need to address serious social problems of inequality, housing, jobs and education through a more developmental state agenda. However investors I speak to simply want to see that this is not at the expense of the productive sectors of the economy.