After almost a year of selling emerging markets, investors seem to be returning in force. The latest to turn positive on the asset class is asset and wealth manager Pictet Group (AUM: 265 billion pounds) which said on Tuesday its asset management division (clarifies division of Pictet) was starting to build positions on emerging equities and local currency debt. It has an overweight position on the latter for the first time since it went underweight last July.
Local emerging debt has been out of favour with investors because of how volatile currencies have been since last May, For an investor who is funding an emerging market investments from dollars or euros, a fast-falling rand can wipe out any gains he makes on a South African bond. But the rand and its peers such as the Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Brazilan real — at the forefront of last year’s selloff – have stabilised from the lows hit in recent months. According to Pictet Asset Management:
The West has just agreed to stump up a load of cash for Ukraine but there is a distinct sense of deja vu around it all.
Let’s face it – Ukraine’s track record on how it manages ts economy and foreign affairs isn’t great. This is the third aid programme Kiev has signed with the International Monetary Fund in a decade and two of them have failed. The IMF has its fingers crossed that this one will not go the way of the past two. Reza Moghadam, the IMF’s top European official, tells Reuters in an interview:
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.
(corrects last paragraph to show that Timchenko was Gunvor’s co-founder, not a former CEO)
Western sanctions against Russia lack bite, that’s the consensus. Yet the bonds of some Russian companies have taken a hit, especially the ones whose bosses have been targeted for visa- and asset freezes.
Markets are fretting about the prospect of western sanctions on Russia but Europeans will also suffer heavily from any retaliatory trade embargoes from Moscow which supplies roughly a third of the continent’s gas needs – 130 billion cubic metres in 2012.
After all, memories are still fresh of winter 2009 when Russia cut off gas exports through Ukraine because of Kiev’s failure to pay bills on time. ING Bank analysts have put together a table showing which countries could be hardest hit if the Kremlin indeed turns off the taps.
Investors trawling for new frontier markets have of late been rolling into Iran. Charles Robertson at Renaissance Capital (which bills itself as a Frontier bank) visited recently and his verdict?
It’s like Turkey, but with 9% of the world’s oil reserves.
Most interestingly, Robertson found a bustling stock market with a $170 billion market cap — on par with Poland – which is the result of a raft of privatisations in recent years. A $150 million daily trading volume exceeds that of Nigeria, a well established frontier markets. And a free-float of $30 billion means that if Iranian shares are included in MSCI’s frontier index, they would have a share of 25 percent, he calculates.
The crisis currently roiling the developing world has revived a debate in some circles about the very validity of the “emerging markets” concept. Used since the early 1980s as a convenient moniker grouping countries that were thought to be less developed — financially or infrastructure-wise or due to the size or liquidity of their financial markets — the widely varying performances of different countries during the turmoil has served to underscore the differences rather than similarities between them. An analyst who traveled recently between several Latin American countries summed it up by writing that he had passed through three international airports during his trip but had not had a stamp in his passport that said “emerging market”.
Like this analyst, many reckon the day has come when fund managers, index providers and investors must stop and consider if it makes sense to bucket wildly disparate countries together. After all what does Venezuela, with its anti-market policies and 50 percent annual inflation, have in common with Chile, a free market economy with a high degree of transparency and investor-friendliness?
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.
A recent report highlights the importance of economic development for India and indeed for all developing countries. It also shows why we should worry about the slow pace of reform in India and how that has hit growth rates.
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analysts have picked up a report from the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi-based think tank, showing that terrorism-linked deaths in India last year were 6 times lower than in 2001, a development they ascribe to the rapid growth the country enjoyed in this period. The graphic below shows the link:
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.
JPMorgan says its index family — comprising EMBI Global dollar bond indices, the CEMBI group listing corporate debt and the GBI-EM index of local currency emerging bonds — ended 2013 with a combined market cap of $2.8 trillion, a 2 percent increase from end-2012. Take a look at the following graphic which shows the rise in the market cap since 2001: