The IIF’s January Capital Flows survey predicted another “rough ride” this year on flat $1.1 trillion allocation, in a down trend since 2013’s $1.3 trillion. The last quarter of 2014 saw major portfolio investment exit added to previous bets of risk aversion with the Russia-Ukraine crisis and likely Fed Reserve rate retracement. Macroeconomic fundamentals are mixed with lower oil and commodity prices’ respective fallout on importers and exporters, although current account deficit countries like Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey are better positioned than during the earlier “taper tantrum” with policy changes. Geopolitical and political tensions will linger, with the latter in Europe focusing on elections where anti-Euro populists and extremists could hold sway. Partial recovery could come in 2016 to $1.2 trillion, aided by low valuations and continued global fund diversification, but even then the 4 percent of GDP figure would be only half the peak a decade before. Resident outflows in the thirty economies tracked in turn will dip from $1.4 trillion to under $1.3 trillion despite continued Russian flight and $300 billion in reserve recycling as Gulf wealth pools in particular pare commitments. The group estimates with regular official data that inward debt and equity totals were $140 billion and $75 billion as stocks increased from one-fifth to one-third the total. In the fifteen countries with high-frequency reporting institutional rather than retail investors dominate activity and they will hesitate to raise exposure with lackluster 4 percent-plus average GDP growth just two points above advanced economies. Lower inflation will benefit most and allow for rate cutting outside big oil exporters like Nigeria also worried about currency depreciation. According to EPFR mutual fund and ETF emerging market weight at 12 percent of global portfolios is at a post-crisis low, and BRIC selloff has been especially notable with the exception of India’s recent turnaround with the Modi government. Corporate and sovereign spreads at now at a premium to comparable US asset classes and the forward p/e ratio at 11 is at an historic discount to mature markets’ 15 also presenting a valuation case although energy company earnings have further to drop. These plays can be easily accessed by dedicated ETFs routinely employed by 20 percent of long-term insurance and pension funds, statistics show.
Bank lending has also skidded since mid-2014 with Europe off sharpest as Asia’s overseas liabilities, half of the total and concentrated in China more than doubled in five years to $1.7 trillion. Latin American facilities also jumped for the period, led by Brazil, Colombia and Peru, as Middle East and South African ones languished. Turkey was Europe’s exception with flows rising to over 10 percent of GDP and increasingly from US banks. Frontier market reversal has been prominent into 2015 with the MSCI index negative and bond yields spiking as portfolio and direct investment were unchanged last year at almost $150 billion. Only Asian components are relatively stable while twin deficit and commodity-export countries in EMEA will be “tested” by less adventurous spirits, the study comments.