Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

March 7th 2010

Emerging Market Currencies Continue their Run

Since most emerging market economies and financial markets are fairly small, their currencies are subject to the whims of international investors, moreso than is the case with major currencies. For that reason, when I research emerging market currencies as a whole, I often like to focus on what investors are saying are saying about their stocks and bonds.

According to one columnist, “For an asset class once considered a snake pit of risk, emerging market sovereign bonds have become remarkably popular among investors. So popular, in fact, that even the most cautious of institutions have developed an appetite. Indeed, US pension funds are poised to pour almost $100bn (£65m, €74m) into emerging market debt in the next five years…potentially helping push yields relative to US Treasuries to a record low.” The popularity of emerging market debt is pretty incredible in the context of the Greek debt crisis and the consequent spike in risk aversion. At the same time, emerging market countries have been lauded for their sound finances and low debt-to-GDP ratios, so perhaps it’s no surprise that investors remain willing to continue lending them money. “More and more investors are looking to emerging market local bonds as an alternative to standard global bond allocations, as the problems in Greece and the European periphery highlight the credit risks of that market that have been long underpriced.”

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The same is basically true for emerging market stocks, as “A recovery in economic growth and exports in developing nations is boosting the outlook for…company earnings.” Added another analyst, “When you look at the most recent financial crisis, one of the key features has been that emerging market countries weathered the storm extremely well.” Going forward, the consensus expectation is that emerging markets will soon account for the lion’s share of global growth.

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For the most part, investors are still quite bullish on both stocks and bonds, despite – or perhaps because of – their amazing performances in 2009. The MSCI emerging market stock index has doubled over the past year, and the JP Morgan EMBI+ bond index rose 28% in 2009 en route to a record high. Still, there is concern that since emerging market stocks and bonds are basically in line with fundamentals, a further inflow of capital would push them into bubble territory. “Jerome Booth, head of research at Ashmore Investment Management, reckons that currency appreciation will be the main source of return for local emerging market debt portfolios in the medium term. ‘The only questions are when it starts and whether it happens fast or slow: with old world currency crashes or managed adjustment.’ ” This is problematic because it means at this point, investors may be chasing currency appreciation rather than direct asset appreciation.

Some investors have started to talk about bubbles, but these appear to be more regional in nature, and the handful of bears point to specific countries rather than dismiss emerging markets outright. For example, it’s now clear that there is a bubble in China’s property market, but not necessarily in the country’s stock market. The South African Rand, meanwhile appears to be overvalued, but the Central Bank of South Africa has announced that it will allow the Rand to continue appreciating. The Chilean Peso, meanwhile, is also poised to appreciate, ironically because of the recent earthquake, as Billions of Dollars aimed at relief efforts are already pouring into the country.

There’s much else that can be said about emerging market currencies at this point, and the near-term will depend largely on if/when/how the Greek debt crisis is resolved. While emerging market investors like to pretend that this is irrelevant, the fact is that they are still somewhat skittish, and even a minor crisis would send them running towards the exits.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Emerging Currencies, News | No Comments »

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