General Emerging Markets


Exotic Sovereigns’ Pedestrian Sustainability Sense

2017 October 15 by

The dozen countries in JP Morgan’s frontier NEXGEM index continue to outstrip the main external bond gauges as spreads over US Treasuries are at a decade thin 100 basis points, as public debt jumped an average almost 15 percent over the period to 70 percent, resurrecting sustainability fears after large official relief programs. Economic growth and exchange rate stress testing suggests medium term deleveraging could stabilize ratios, and domestic borrowing would increase its relative portion. However levels in Ghana, Jamaica, Mongolia and Ukraine would rise 5-15 percent and translate into higher spreads under normal differentiation, which may not apply currently with sloshing global liquidity and investor positions remaining underweight. Since last year fundamentals have “decoupled,” but the relationship with most specific credits has held up since index introduction, according to the sponsor. In Central America and the Caribbean Moody’s downgraded Costa Rica in February one notch to lower speculative status, a further slip from the previous investment-grade rating. Another blow looms on the horizon with promised fiscal consolidation failing to balance spending and revenue with debt/output already at 65 percent. The government is hamstrung entering next year’s election with control of only one-fifth of legislative seats. Earmarks take up 90 percent of appropriations, and despite announcement of a “budget emergency” and likely wider foreign investment scope for local debt decisive action will await the new administration. The Dominican Republic in contrast was upgraded in September after a well-received $500 million international issue, with debt-to-GDP twenty points less and 5 percent growth on track, with good remittances and tourism before the spate of area hurricanes. Ecuador’s public debt doubled the past five years with oil price collapse and heavy state infrastructure and social outlays. Its main overseas creditor was China until market return in 2014, and President Moreno has yet to signal a break from the loose purse strings of his predecessor and socialist policy champion Correa. The Vice President has been implicated in another Odebrecht bribery scandal around previous construction projects, and dollarization is set to continue with business and financial community support despite populist backlash. Major external bond maturities are not due until end-decade, and relations have resumed with the IMF for possible emergencies beyond a recent earthquake when it was tapped for aid.

El Salvador’s debt stands at 65 percent of GDP and the two main political parties have been at loggerheads over pension reform after missed payments. The opposition recently managed a compromise to hike the contribution rate to 15 percent and extend retirement age over time. The net present value of liabilities is still estimated at 90 percent of national income only expanding at a 2 percent annual pace. Private pension funds must buy the government notes to cover obligations, potentially subjecting them to portfolio and default risks. Jamaica with its world-beating 120% of GDP load has been under IMF supervision for five years, and completed a series of local and foreign debt swaps. A three-year $1.5 billion standby was inked in 2016, and the local dollar continues to depreciate as more flexible currency and inflation-targeting regimes are adopted. A 5 percent-plus budget primary surplus has been regularly achieved but the wage bill has been pared back slowly amid glacial 1% growth.

Stocks’ Crisis Retrospective Run-Ups

2017 October 9 by

Thirty years after the 1987 New York Stock exchange 25 percent crash and a decade on from the 2008 financial crisis, MSCI core and frontier indices turned in respective 25 percent and 20 percent gains through Q3 for the best performance since 2010. Only Russia and Gulf country indices under trade and financial boycotts were down, alongside refugee emergency-hit Jordan and Lebanon, recent main gauge returnee Pakistan and tiny Botswana. The BRIC component overall was superior with a 30 percent advance, while Poland (+45 percent) led the big roster and Argentina and Ghana on the other one were ahead 60-70 percent. Zimbabwe recorded a stratospheric 250 percent jump through September with the stock exchange the only outlet to preserve savings, with draconian bank deposit withdrawal limits and new borrowing from the African Export-Import Bank to inject emergency dollars. China “A” shares after MSCI’s marginal index addition have surged to almost narrow the gap with the broader mainland 40 percent increase ahead of the Party Congress due to reappoint President Xi and his designated team, which could include well-known economic reformers and technocrats. On the eve monetary policy was loosened through a reserve requirement nudge for dedicated small business credit, as authorities seek otherwise to cap real-estate related personal lending.

Elsewhere in Asia Korea (+30 percent) brushed off border bellicosity, amid harsh rhetoric from Pyongyang against Seoul and the US and a series of test nuclear missile launches. Tech firms were in a sweet spot in the earnings and global manufacturing cycle, helping to overcome Chinese restrictions on consumer goods and Washington’s threat to renegotiate its bilateral trade pact. India (+22.5 percent) faded on demonetization and national sales tax hangovers which have crushed average entrepreneurs and assembly operations, while Indonesia was another 10 percent behind as religion and politics mixed more dangerously with loud calls for more action to protect the Muslim minority Rohingya fleeing Myanmar for makeshift camps in Bangladesh, where the market rose almost 10 percent.

In Latin America Brazil (+25 percent) roared back during the quarter after lagging, as investors were spared a second impeachment even though President Temer remains under criminal investigation  for alleged bribery and his party and allies are unlikely to pass overdue state pension cutbacks to restrain the 10 percent of GDP fiscal deficit. Mexico had the same showing as Pemex private sector exploration auctions proved popular and NAFTA reworking talks appeared to dismiss total breakup with Canada’s views closely aligned. Chile (+30 percent) was at the crest before the first round of presidential elections likely to return free market business magnate Pinera to the post. In Europe behind Poland, Hungary and Turkey each climbed over 25 percent on domestic demand juiced by state lending programs as relations further soured with the EU. Prime Minister Orban has defied Brussels on immigration quotas and President Erdogan accuses it of reneging on visa-free travel promised in exchange for additional Syrian refugee acceptance on transfer from Greece. There after Europe’s biggest run last year improvement is just over 10 percent as banks await another cycle of asset reviews which may reflect crisis respite short of repair to again rouse international community urgency.

Global Refugees’ Brimming Business Case

2017 September 25 by

A new Center for Global Development study commissioned by the Tent Foundation, started by the chief executive of yogurt maker Chobani to organize US company efforts to tackle the refugee crisis in the Middle East and elsewhere, found that global business concentrated on the three areas of hiring and supply chains, impact investing and goods and services provision alongside broader policy shaping efforts. Social and reputation benefit, brand loyalty, and bottom-line profitability are the main motives, although agreed standards are lacking for accountability and results. The world’s close to 25 million refugees are displaced 10 years on average and over half are in cities, and “sustainable engagement” beyond periodic product and expertise donations increasingly applies, as with furniture manufacturer IKEA’s transition from energy and housing help to artisan employment in Jordan. The report notes that work, travel, education and childcare restrictions continue to block progress, despite evidence that migrant inflows can spur occupational and wage improvements for host populations. In offering positions Starbucks is a leader with a commitment to 10,000 retail slots, although in many countries work permits are unavailable and transport costs prohibitive. In Jordan only a quarter of the 200,000 promised labor authorizations under a concessional World Bank loan and EU trade preference deal have come through. Specialized initiatives like WEConnect and Building Markets aim to link women, entrepreneurs and small business to multinational company supply networks, and a quick review of 20 low and middle-income economies with the most refugees cites consumer products, agriculture, retail and information technology as promising sectors. Development agencies facilitate and sponsor new arrangements, such as with US grocer Safeway in Jordan and the UN’s craft enterprises in West Africa. Hydrocarbons could also be an entry point, and reconstruction in Iraq and Syria could take off eventually as dedicated matchmaking hubs promote partnerships, as the guide recommends.

Impact assets that seek environment and social alongside financial returns are estimated at $115 billion, and diaspora communities, such as Somalis in Kenya, also mobilize capital for frontline state high-risk allocation. They can take stakes in startup operations like the 10000 Syrian-owned ones in Turkey which average ten employees and contribute $330 million to the economy, according to a recent census. However global investment houses tend to shy away with the small scale and difficult to measure metrics, although project specific humanitarian or development bonds, with a donor or government paying upon achieved outcomes, may be a refugee channel. They are under preparation in the Middle East, and group loans to Syrian borrowers are offered through on-line site Kiva. As “base of the pyramid” consumers, the financial and telecoms sectors are ripe for innovation, and Mastercard has created digital vouchers and prepaid debit cards in cooperation with relief agencies, and European phone company Orange has built international dialing and banking infrastructure in Uganda. The paper concludes that these early models for refugee business may be inspiring but still lack a “rigorous evidence base.” It advises establishment of ethical standards, evaluation tools, country dialogues and research centers to solidify commercial awareness and lay the foundation for routine participation that lasts apart from the Tent label.

Equity Indices’ Consumer Consummation

2017 August 10 by

With both core and frontier stock markets up double-digits through mid-year index providers like S&P Dow Jones have rolled out fresh benchmarks with traditional ones “quite limited” for investment outperformance. Broad gauges are “highly correlated” as S&P’s BMI beat the MSCI by 30 percent over the past 15 years with a 435 percent gain. South Korea is excluded from the former as a developed market while its 15% weight with lagging results has been a drag on the latter. The two also differ since MSCI has no small-cap stocks, often consumer and health care-related, which have advanced 170 percent more than mid and large-cap peers concentrated in banks and exporters over the period. The gap has been particularly wide the past decade as personal discretionary and staples outpaced energy listings by 80 percent, with a lead across all regions. Among the main geographies Latin America and Europe have big natural resource exposure as in Brazil and Russia, while Asia features information technology. To better capture the consumer play Dow Jones has introduced a global Titans 30 index with top representation from South Africa, China, India and Mexico. Korean and Taiwanese firms are outside since their sales are predominantly to industrial economies. Its volatility-adjusted return exceeded overall industry measures back-tested to the early 2000s, and dozens of additional dedicated country, sector, and size indices are available for sophisticated managers, according to the report.

Private equity has also evolved as emerging market allocation increased nine times since 2005 to over $550 billion at end-2016, a Preqin industry survey reveals. Fundraising last year was below 2015, with buyout and venture capital deals moving in opposite directions. Despite major country economic and world geopolitical challenges long-term middle class and young working class growth remain drivers even if returns lag Europe and North America vehicles. Funds have begun to distribute more capital than called, with net cash flow at records. In the past five years activity has slowed from the peak when EM was half the PE total. In 2016 it was 12 percent with almost 200 fund closes for $45 billion. Through 2017 so far the numbers are 60 and $15 billion, respectively, for one-fifth of global raising. Asia has been 80 percent of the sum the last decade followed by Latin America, and diversified mandates are just 5 percent. By category growth and venture capital funds dominate in volume, but buyout types have attracted 40 percent of the action in recent years. Only 15 percent of general partners could reach completion within six months, and three-quarters are based in developing economies for easier analysis and marketing. Four out of the five largest launched since 2008 are from China with combined $50 billion in commitments. The investor base comprises almost 900 institutions, over one-quarter from Greater China, and banks, corporations and portfolio managers are the majority with venture capital preference. Funds of Funds apply more in developed markets, and according to a survey of 200 respondents China and India will be the favored near-term destinations, while Central Europe and the Middle East will stay sidelined. This April phone company Didi Chuxing set a venture mark with a $5.5 billion transaction, with mainland and foreign partners ringing the right tone.

Rave Universal Returns’ Scarce Selectivity

2017 August 3 by

All emerging market debt and equity asset classes rallied in the first half, replicating advance economy minimum yield flight in 2016 despite marginal central bank benchmark rate increases and reflecting slight economic growth and earnings improvement over original forecasts. Stock markets outperformed after a multi-year funk with the MSCI core and frontier indices up 17% and 12%, respectively, while local government bond gains at 8% outstripped external sovereign and corporate ones around 5%. Resurgent fund flows at over $100 billion combined according to data trackers, a large portion from exchange-listed ETFs, have channeled momentum since the end of the first quarter when a brief global scare from the new US administration’s trade and immigration policies, which could hit China and Mexico in particular, faded into the background. The dollar retreated from previous highs and commodity prices stabilized in the aftermath, and retail and institutional investors then poured money in with scant geographic and asset class distinction. The second half will determine if markets can begin again to rise and fall on their own virtues in their own long-delayed “normalization” process, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Asia’s and a decade since the US and Europe-led world financial meltdown.

As in the mania that preceded the late 2000s crash, stock market gains in the big BRIC economies mirrored the MSCI result, with Russia the only loser, down 15%. China and India were each ahead 20%, while Brazil was essentially flat with a 2% uptick. Brazil and Russia are out of recession but still grapple with stagflation. China’s 6.5% growth and steady currency and reserves were on target before the upcoming Party Congress, but the well-telegraphed incremental inclusion of “A” shares in the gauge was also a catalyst. India’s GDP increase was the same as China’s, and its price-earnings ratio toward 20 is five points above the emerging market average, but it is considered a structural reform standout despite lagging a generation behind peers, and the mixed record so far with recent months’ large banknote elimination and just-launched national tax unification. Including South Africa in the group, as a charter member of the BRICS Bank now in operation, contributes another 5% plus bump but reinforces the broad narrative of ambivalent economic and political fundamentals and model change. The IMF and World Bank tweaked the developing world growth forecast to 4.5% this year but warned about fiscal deficits, monetary strain from bank deleveraging, and balance of payments pressure from voluntary and hidden capital outflows. They suggested another period of business and financial sector opening and deepening was overdue with reactivation of stalled concepts like state bank and enterprise privatization.

The BRIC rebound has likewise been instrumental in lifting external corporate and sovereign bonds. Issuance was a record $100 billion and $250 billion in the respective segments through end-June, at average spreads around 300 basis points. China’s giant state-run and real estate companies, with tighter onshore access, have been 40% of corporates and Brazil’s Petrobras, the biggest individual debtor, has bounced off last year’s bottom after ratings downgrades and defaults hit Brazilian names broadly. Despite lingering international sanctions, Russia has returned in force to both markets, and a spate of new and resumed entrants, including Argentina and Gulf countries lifted lackluster traditional sovereign activity. Local bond average yields over 6% sparked a renewed carry trade wave among fast-moving investment funds borrowing in low-volatility industrial world currencies, a phenomenon largely absent the past decade. For more exotic destinations in Africa and elsewhere, IMF program negotiation resurfaced as an allocation driver, with Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon and Mongolia among popular bets shunned in the absence of additional official support.

With a nascent global bond selloff already arriving in July, EM fixed-income in particular could correct across the board, and the pure valuation argument for equities is increasingly questionable with profits hurting in many sectors outside world value chain connected consumer goods and technology. Local currency debt, and smaller and frontier country shares, should be able to hold if investors reflect and differentiate in the space in a long-term successful strategy, rather than risk disappointment with an overriding narrative of modest growth pickup and taper tantrum sequel avoidance.


US Development Policy’s Demolition Crew Din

2017 July 27 by

With the Trump Administration proposing 30 percent bilateral and multilateral development assistance cuts, and wide ranging yet undefined reorganization with management consultants first scouring the State Department, Washington researchers have scrambled to offer their own comprehensive reforms for executive and legislative consideration. The Center for Global Development unveiled a “practical vision” with over a dozen priority items to be coordinated across twenty agencies led by AID and more focused arms like OPIC and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, despite total spending at half the OECD average 0.3 percent of GDP. Four thematic areas—fragility, inclusion, health and humanitarian aid—would drive future interventions and strategy and offer a government-wide integrated approach. For fragile and transitional countries, AID’s traditional competitive bidding, typically a 2-year cycle, could be waived to allow quick program and personnel deployment. The surge would come under a new operation after previous attempts like State’s Conflict and Stabilization Bureau proved inadequate. The report recommends joint AID-MCC programs since the latter’s 5-year country compacts can frame broader economic policy change, and the former could deploy its credit authority to foster private financial flows.  It adds that agreements could be extended indefinitely on steady governance and inclusion improvement since few new eligible candidates appear annually. OPIC should be expanded into a full-service funding organization despite the initial Trump budget seeking abolition, with the existing range stretched to public equity investment and technical assistance, while enterprise ventures promoted elsewhere are transferred to its control. Disaster relief remains AID’s comparative advantage, although refugee humanitarian duties should be split with the State Department’s migration bureau. Food, which has to be shipped by US carriers under outdated law, should not be the Agriculture Department’s responsibility and reforms should focus on cheaper local supply and distribution not distorting traditional markets. Reporting and strategy should be streamlined and shared across a common platform, and a comprehensive review of UN and multilateral development bank contributions can weigh detailed costs and benefits for billions of dollars that may be better allocated under alternative arrangements.

The CSIS think tank convened another bipartisan task force on the subject, with the reminder that foreign aid is just 1 percent of the budget or around $40 billion, while the original enabling act is over 50 years old and over 20 government units are now involved with congress layering on hundreds of earmarks and information mandates. A main purpose is international economic partnership to create US jobs and sales, and the group warns about repeating the mid-1990s overhaul experience, with large layoffs “crippling” AID leadership and technical ranks. It notes that today’s complex challenges include forced migration, pandemics, terrorism, political dysfunction and transnational crime, as private capital flows to developing countries are five times official support. Canada will soon join the rest of the G-7 in launching its own full-fledged development finance arm, leaving the US alone with its lagging OPIC structure. Middle income recipients should graduate over time, and development bank burden sharing must be clearly defined after a 15-year period of “benign neglect.” The number of sectors should be narrowed following the base realignment parallel at the Pentagon, and short and long-term pools should stay separate with management from a dedicated career corps of specialists not cultivated under current work force planning, according to the blueprint.

Forced Displacement’s Involuntary Toll Tally

2017 July 7 by

The UN Refugee agency released its annual report on global relocation due to war and persecution, with the total rising to 65 million, one-third refugees crossing borders and the majority internally displaced within their own countries. Last year 10 million were newly uprooted, and half of refugees are children and 85 percent are in the developing world. The Syria conflict is the biggest contributor with 5.5 million citizens fleeing, followed by Afghanistan and South Sudan respectively at 2.5 million and 1.5 million. Lebanon hosts the highest portion in per capita and Turkey in absolute terms, and 2 million asylum claims were filed and 190,000 refugees resettled in 2016, half in the US before the Trump administration’s proposed stricter limits. The number on the move has doubled in twenty years mainly due to Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa unrest. After Syria’s 12 million Columbia has the most displaced with over 7.5 million and Nigeria, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen also range from 2-3 million. South Sudan’s exodus was particularly pronounced last year with spillover into neighboring poor countries like Uganda. The 22 million refugees include 5 million Palestinians under the UNHCR’s longstanding mandate, and they increased 1 million globally. Africa had a 15 percent jump and Turkey now has received 500,000 more Syrians than all of Europe’s 2.3 million, and also has 15,000 exiles from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Pakistan has 1.5 million Afghanis; Lebanon 1 million Syrians and Uganda 650,000 South Sudanese. Jordan has taken in 650,000 from Syria, almost double the influx into Germany. Kenya has the tenth biggest refugee cohort of 450,000 chiefly from Somalia. In Asia almost 500,000 Rohingya left Myanmar as of last year, with half staying in Bangladesh and 100,000 each going to Malaysia and Thailand. Low and middle-income economies disproportionately accommodate inflows, with “least developed” Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia and Sudan among others with 5 percent of the world total. Two-thirds are in “protracted” stays of five years-plus and 4 million have been way for an average 20 years, according to the UN data.

Last September’s General Assembly summit emphasized durable solutions, including voluntary repatriation, third-country resettlement and local integration, but they have been “inadequate” and left large swathes in “precarious” position. Returnees with official assistance are less than 5 percent, and the US, Australia and the UK are now tightening entry programs while Canada continues its welcome. Legal status through naturalization extended to just 25,000 in 2016, with France, Belgium and Austria boosting designations. Labor and education are improving as “complementary pathways” but domestic competition and lack of capacity continue as long-term obstacles. Libya and the Philippines had 450,000 and 250,000 respective internal returnees despite strife, which has since worsened and is likely to reignite escape. Almost 3 million sought asylum, and while Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian applications comprised 70 percent in the US half came from Mexico and Central America including Venezuela. Italy received almost 50,000 claims from Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal and Eritrea.  France, Greece, Sweden and South Africa also processed large amounts and 900,000 were approved overall with Germany alone rendering 600,000 decisions. Another 3 million people are formally “stateless” and of the 17 million refugees outside the Palestinian saga half have private shelter, and 4.5 million are in managed or self-designed camps which may not displace anger and fear, the report suggests.

Contingent Sovereign Debt’s Emergency Appeal

2017 June 3 by

After months of public and private sector consultations the IMF completed a policy paper at the request of the G-20 on promoting use of state contingent debt instruments (SCDIs) adjusted to continuous economic indicators like GDP or singular events such as natural disasters. They are recognized for countercyclical and risk-sharing features, and recent development institution focus has been on commodity hedging for low-income countries. Recently in Argentina’s and Ukraine’s restructurings growth-linked warrants were offered, but the concept has yet to gain widespread acceptance even in current global low-yield conditions inviting alternatives. As an automatic stabilizer they “preserve space” in bad times , but other tools are available to serve this purpose including foreign reserve accumulation, fiscal rules, commercial insurance, and central bank swap lines. However these backstops all have downsides and are not as accessible as well-designed long-term SCDIs in principle, which also increase securities diversification and the global financial system “safety net,” according to the Fund. Previous simulations show that introduction of GDP-tied bonds can raise the national debt limit before crisis by dozens of points as a fraction of output. The natural investor base would not be commercial banks or other mark-to-market buyers, but so called real money participants that can balance country welfare with asset returns. They nonetheless demand high novelty yields to compensate for liquidity and performance doubts, which would be magnified with data frequency and reporting gaps. For troubled countries the advance cost could spike, and until a track record develops moral hazard could argue that officials will not be as motivated to tackle macro and structural economic weakness. For issuers the operation must be the responsibility of independent debt managers to avoid political considerations and short-term time horizons, and to prepare in the context of asset class trends and sentiment swings. These combined factors argue for gradual testing within strictly-defined gain and loss boundaries, with ratings agencies brought in at an early stage, the study believes.

Official lenders like France’s development agency already provide counter-cyclical facilities to poor countries, and both advanced and emerging economies have adopted inflation-adjusted obligations and contingency features have entered sovereign debt rescheduling since the 1990s Brady Plan. Value recovery rights were in a dozen transactions, with half in detachable form, but the experience has often been indexation lags and undue complexity impeding further adaptation. Nonetheless investors surveyed were open to fresh pilots, on the assumption that pricing may be up to 50 basis points over conventional offerings at the outset. Legal and regulatory treatment should be equal to other instruments, and standard contracts and benchmark issues are preferred, with jurisdiction choices London and New York. Commodity exporters, small states, and emerging markets with shallow local bond activity are potential priority initial borrowers. Pension funds controlling $40 trillion are natural takers but may be confined to hard currency investment-grade exposure. The Islamic finance sector, currently with over $150 billion in sovereign and quasi-sovereign sukuks outstanding, would also be a likely target along with insurers and reinsurers. The document proposes three design versions, one with an automatic maturity extension trigger upon adverse statistics or events. It suggests that official creditors could add guarantees or otherwise work to galvanize multiple attempts through balance sheet and technical support, but concludes urgency is lacking.

Institutional Investors’ Sweeping Sustainability Suspicions

2017 May 26 by

Ahead of consecutive UN conferences on Financing for Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) a blue-ribbon panel of investment managers and international lending agency officials released a long-term action plan to mobilize global banking and capital markets participants around environment, social and governance (ESG) returns. Infrastructure alone will need $2.5 trillion over the next dozen years for low-carbon energy and education-health purposes, and current financial assets at $300 trillion and increasing 5 percent annually are an untapped pool ready to look elsewhere with the large negative-yield industrial country sovereign debt category. However a wholesale commercial, regulatory, technology  and long-term “reorientation” is needed for outcomes that will only be clear over decades , according to the study under the auspices of the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. New international standards like Basel III do not incorporate SDG criteria, even if the UN Environment Program and related efforts try to transmit practices and principles. The report recommends that banks, rating agencies, stock exchange listed companies and institutional investors with $100 trillion under management apply yardsticks to be created by global accounting and rulemaking bodies. Central banks in Bangladesh, Brazil, China and Indonesia already impose requirements around “green” projects so that lenders duly disclose and monitor benefits and risks. On reporting, following a series of initiatives since the 1990s, over 90 percent of the word’s 250 leading corporations detail ESG performance. Almost 1500 fund houses have signed the UN responsible investment code, but the lack of common universal metrics remains and prevents company comparisons, with 80 percent of managers expressing discontent in a Price Waterhouse survey. Regardless of the gap thousands of empirical studies show a positive correlation between compliance and profitability. Small and midsize enterprises, which have not participated due to cost and information disadvantages, could be specifically targeted in future outreach and standard-setting.

Infrastructure has a $2-3 trillion yearly hole through the SDGs 2030 deadline, two-thirds in emerging and frontier economies, in sectors including energy, transport, telecoms, water and sanitation. The goal is to limit global warming to a two degree temperature rise, as the urban population will roughly double by midcentury to 6.5 billion. Public financing falls short even in the US and Europe, where it is under 2 percent of GDP, one-third the rate to meet developing world demand. The eight major development banks in turn provide just $40 billion annually and they could leverage up to $1 trillion without jeopardizing credit ratings. In seventy five low income countries, mainly in Africa private investment has been only $75 billion the past five years. Insurers are also missing as asset and risk managers for climate change, following a pattern of minimal natural disaster coverage that came to $100 billion in the latest estimate. Regional initiatives like China’s $1 trillion One Belt One Road are in a startup phase and the two big policy banks, each with over $300 billion in assets, charged with credit support are struggling with previous portfolio cleanup in that geographic nexus and elsewhere, particularly Latin America. Private pension fund expansion must go further and sovereign wealth pools should increase infrastructure project exposure with governments acting as the ultimate market maker for sustaining long-term trading products, the group suggests.

Global Reserves’ Restocked Shelf Space

2017 May 21 by

Global foreign exchange reserves, after slumping $1 trillion from mid-2014 through the end of last year mainly due to dollar fluctuations, have stabilized in recent months with restored emerging market capital inflows, according to IMF and central bank figures. The global total is now almost $11 trillion and $8.5 trillion for developing economies after a double-digit annual fall from China and Gulf country drawdowns in particular. Fund tracking data shows $50 billion in foreign investor debt and equity allocation in the first quarter, with leaps in IIF monthly high-frequency numbers. Currency manipulation through deliberate depreciation is no longer the case, although many countries have excess reserves as defined by international yardsticks of four months import and short-term debt coverage, with Hungary and Turkey exceptions with shortfalls on the respective measures. The emerging market 15 percent savings rate now tops the developed nation one, and the spurt outstrips the reserve accumulation pace. The US and UK on the flip side run the highest current account deficits as a portion of world output, although the dollar accounts for two-thirds of foreign exchange holdings, with the euro a distant second at 20 percent, and the RMB only 1 percent. In fixed income both external sovereign and corporate issuance at $75 billion and $170 billion through April are at records. In the former half the supply has been from the Middle East, with Argentina also contributing $7.5 billion. These new entrants have spurred the asset class, along with a $100 billion annual refinancing hump toward end-decade. Big houses like JP Morgan predict $50 billion in retail and institutional inflows this year, and 5 percent cash positions built up during the initial Trump confrontation scare can help accommodate heavy hard currency-denominated pipelines.

The CEMBI spread at 250 basis points over US Treasuries is at an unprecedented low with a 4 percent index return so far, and projected high-yield defaults have halved to 2 percent with commodity price recovery. Final issuance in 2017 should approach $400 billion, with one-quarter from Asia, almost all China. One third of advanced economy bonds still carry negative yields, and Latin America has been the best performing region, as Brazil and Russia bounced off bottoms. The difference between speculative and investment-grade paper has narrowed to 300 basis points and scarcer euro-denominated have returned more than dollar bonds through April. Commodities remain mixed, and dollar strength has faded, but the main risk is with unhedged domestic-oriented consumer and utility names. Daily trading volume by the US TRACE system is $3.5 billion, half in quasi-sovereigns. Dedicated assets under management are $80 billion, and so-called crossover investor interest has increased although US high-yield exposure is still below 3 percent. Recovery values were dismal last year at 35 cents, and 20 instruments in Brazil and Venezuela currently trade at 50 percent of par or under in deep distress. Net debt and ratings downgrade ratios have improved with better earnings estimates. Of the $2 trillion tracked half is quasi-sovereign with Asia and the Gulf having majorities in the category, and leverage indicators have stabilized although state support is the credit bulwark increasingly offset by policy wobbles, analysts caution.