It’s been a while since Chinese stocks earned investors fat profits. Last year the Shanghai market lost 22 percent and the compounded return on equity investments there since 1993 is minus 3 percent. This year too China has underwhelmed, rising less than 3 percent so far. Broader emerging equities on the other hand have just concluded their best first quarter since 1992, with gains of over 13 percent.
Given all that, bears remain a surprisingly rare breed in China. A Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s monthly survey found it was fund managers’ biggest emerging markets overweight in March and that has been the case for some months now. Clearly, hope dies last.
Bonds issued in emerging market currencies have been red-hot favourites with investors this year, garnering returns of 8.3 percent so far in 2012. But for some the happy days are drawing to a close — U.S. Treasury yields are nudging higher as the U.S. recovery gains a foothold and the Fed holds back from more money printing for now at least. That could spell trouble for emerging markets across the board (here’s something I wrote on this subject recently) but, according to JP Morgan, it is Asian bond markets that may bear the brunt.
Their graphic details weekly flows to local bond funds as measured by EPFR Global (in million US$). As on cue, these flows have tended to spike whenever central banks have pumped in cash. (Click the graphic to enlarge.)
For income-focused investors, the choice between stocks and corporate bonds has been a no-brainer in recent years. In a volatile world, corporate debt tends to be less sensitive to market gyrations and also has offered better yields – last year non-financial European corporate bonds provided a yield pickup of 73 basis points above stocks, Morgan Stanley calculates.
But, long a fan of credit over equity, MS reckons the picture may now be changing and points out that European equities are offering better yields than credit for the first time in over a decade. (The graphic below compares dividend yields on non-financial euro STOXX index with the IBOXX European non-financial corporate bond index. The former narrowly wins.)
It was all about the United States last month as far as equity markets were concerned. S&P’s world equity index may have ended the month with a small gain of just 0.3 percent but that was down to a 3 percent rise on U.S. markets, data from the index provider shows. Strip out the U.S. contribution and it would have been a pretty poor month for world equities. Beyond Wall St, there was a decline of 1.7 percent and $285 billion lost in market value. Instead, the $418 billion added to U.S. market capitalization dragged the global aggregate up by $132 billion.
Behind the robust U.S. equity performance was a steady flow of strong economic data which also pushed up U.S. 10-year yields 20 bps last month. S&P index analyst Howard Silverblatt writes:
LONDON (Reuters) – Emerging market borrowers may have to hurry to secure cheap funding on global debt markets as rising U.S. yields push up costs and hit anticipated returns on emerging debt.
Treasury bond yields and the dollar have risen in recent weeks on signs of an economic upturn which many fear might rule out further money printing by the Federal Reserve or even shake its resolve to hold interest rates at rock-bottom until 2014.
LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) – Emerging market borrowers may
have to hurry to secure cheap funding on global debt markets as
rising U.S. yields push up costs and hit anticipated returns on
Treasury bond yields and the dollar have risen in recent
weeks on signs of an economic upturn which many fear might rule
out further money printing by the Federal Reserve or even shake
its resolve to hold interest rates at rock-bottom until 2014.
Britain’s aid programme for India hit the headlines this year, when New Delhi, much to the fury of the Daily Mail, described Britain’s £200 million annual aid to it as peanuts. Whether it makes sense to send money to a fast-growing emerging power that spends billions of dollars on arms is up for debate but few know that India has been boosting its own aid programme for other poor nations. A report released today by NGO Global Health Strategies Initiatives (GHSi) finds that India’s foreign assistance grew 10.8 percent annually between 2005 and 2010.
The actual sums flowing from India are, to use its own phrase, peanuts. The country provided $680 million in 2010. Compare that to the $3.2 billion annual contribution even from crisis-hit Italy. The difference is that Indian donations have risen from $443 million in 2005, while Italy’s have fallen 10 percent in this period, GHSi found. Indian aid has grown in fact at a rate 10 times that of the United States. Add to that Indian pharma companies’ contribution – the source of 60- 80 percent of the vaccines procured by United Nations agencies.
More on Hungary. It’s not hard to find a Hungary bear but few are more bearish than William Jackson at Capital Economics.
Jackson argues in a note today that Hungary will ultimately opt to default on its debt mountain as it has effectively exhausted all other mechanisms. Its economy has little prospect of strong growth and most of its debt is in foreign currencies so cannot be inflated away. Austerity is the other way out but Hungary’s population has been reeling from spending cuts since 2007, he says, and is unlikely to put up with more.
Hungary says it might borrow money from global bond markets before it lands a long-awaited aid deal with the International Monetary Fund. That pretty much seems to suggest Budapest has given up hope of getting the IMF cash any time soon. Given the fund has already said it won’t visit Hungary in April, that view would seem correct.
There is some logic to the plan.
Hungary desperately needs the cash — it must find over 4 billion euros just to repay external debt this year.
Russia’s upcoming dollar bond, the first in two years, should fly off the shelves. It’s good timing — elections are past, the world economy seems to be recovering and crucially for Russia, oil prices are over $125 a barrel. And the rise in core yields has massively tightened emerging markets’ yield premium to U.S. Treasuries, offering an attractive window to raise cash. Russia’s spread premium over Treasuries hit the narrowest levels in 7 months recently and despite some widening this week it is still some 75 basis points below end-2011 levels.
Initial indications from the ongoing roadshow are for a two-tranche bond with 10- and 20-year maturities, possibly raising a total of $3.5 billion.