Traders Look Past Ukraine Angst to Load Up on Emerging Assets

Author of the article: Bloomberg News Sydney Maki (Bloomberg) — Emerging markets are standing firm despite escalating tension along the Ukrainian border, with investors more closely eyeing the impact of major central banks catching up on the global tightening cycle. From stocks to local currencies, pockets of emerging markets are on the up. Aggressive central…
Traders Look Past Ukraine Angst to Load Up on Emerging Assets

Author of the article:

Bloomberg News

Sydney Maki

(Bloomberg) — Emerging markets are standing firm despite escalating tension along the Ukrainian border, with investors more closely eyeing the impact of major central banks catching up on the global tightening cycle.

From stocks to local currencies, pockets of emerging markets are on the up. Aggressive central banks and high commodity prices are driving advances this year in more than half of the 24 developing-world currencies tracked by Bloomberg. Analysts have sent corporate earnings expectations to an eight-year high. And investor risk appetite is holding strong: South Africa, considered a bellwether for emerging-market risk, is the best performer this month in the local-currency debt market with total returns exceeding 6%.

“Emerging-market assets have been fairly resilient through the past several months of elevated Russia-Ukraine tensions,” said Phoenix Kalen, head of emerging-market research at Societe Generale in London. “Increasingly, Russia is treated as an idiosyncratic story, which implies limited contagion risk into other emerging markets via the investor sentiment channel.”

While Wall Street is closely watching developments in Moscow and Kyiv, some money managers say the more important development will be how much the Federal Reserve and other key central banks affect global growth by raising interest rates and pulling back the massive stimulus pumped into the financial system since the pandemic.

“The big driver will be another war — that war being global organic growth versus the tide of liquidity and fiscal stimulus receding in the global economy,” said Jack McIntyre, a portfolio manager at Brandywine Global Investment Management in Philadelphia, who said his base case is still that tensions between Russia and the West will ease. “Emerging-market assets have priced in a significant amount of bad news over the past decade and therefore we don’t think there will be a major repricing.”

But deeper geopolitical risk is still there. Signs of a protracted and severe military conflict could shock global markets, growth and inflation. That’s been underscored in the past week as markets were whipsawed by reports signaling easing or escalating tensions. The U.S. said Russia has massed as many as 190,000 personnel in and around Ukraine. 

Listen: EM Weekly Podcast: Ukraine Tension; Korea Rates, Mexico Minutes

While Russia told the U.S. it has no plans to attack, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said Russia and Belarus will extend their joint military drills, which were scheduled to end on Sunday.

Most emerging-market currencies edged higher Monday on news of the proposed summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to statements from the White House and France. There was no immediate confirmation from the Kremlin. 

Political risk in Russia has risen every day since Nov. 7, according to a GeoQuant measure. Yet, it has coincided with a rally in emerging-market currencies that’s sent their benchmark gauge to the highest in eight months. That suggests traders’ optimism over successive interest-rate hikes may outweigh concern over the geopolitical tensions.

Most Vulnerable

Still, a spike in oil prices if Russia were to invade could lead to a performance gap between emerging-market energy importers and exporters. Already, elevated crude prices may linger due to supply-and-demand dynamics, which could underscore opportunities in the Middle East — a region already showing robust credit fundamentals, said Anders Faergemann, London-based senior portfolio manager for global fixed income at PineBridge Investments, which manages $149 billion.

For Societe Generale’s Kalen, central European currencies from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania are among the most vulnerable to Russian escalation and could see selling if risk aversion grows in the region. 

Uncertainty has also hit Russian assets. The ruble is down more than 3% so far this year, but the largest U.S. exchange-traded fund tracking Russian equities, the VanEck Russia ETF (RSX), is fresh off five straight weeks of inflows.

Such volatility hasn’t stopped BNP Paribas Asset Management or Legal & General Group Plc from hanging on to more bullish calls on regional assets. BNP is keeping its Russian and Ukrainian fixed-income holdings with a strategy to stay nimble by avoiding the 10-year part of the yield curve, said Jean-Charles Sambor, the firm’s head of emerging-markets fixed income in London.

“My base case is that there is not a full invasion into Ukraine, but rather the ‘frozen conflict’ continues, as it has for the past eight years,” said Uday Patnaik, a London-based money manager at Legal & General Group Plc, who recently added to his holdings of dollar bonds issued by Kyiv-based Kernel Holding SA and MHP SE. “It is not new. It is one of the reasons that Ukraine trades relatively cheap.”

Here are some the most important economic data events to watch this week: 

Chinese banks kept loan prime rates unchanged in February, according to a report MondayThailand’s economy grew faster than expected last quarter, buoyed by rising exports and tourist arrivals, firming its recovery. Gross domestic product during October-December rose 1.9% from a year ago, versus the median estimate of 0.8% in a Bloomberg surveyStronger-than-expected government revenues in South Africa’s budget, to be released on Wednesday, could mask underlying fiscal risks, according to Bloomberg EconomicsTraders will watch a reading of Argentina’s December economic activity, as well as any developments on a deal with the International Monetary FundMexico is expected to release its final fourth-quarter gross-domestic product figures after preliminary data showed the economy fell into recession. The nation will also post retail sales data and bi-weekly inflation numbers. Investors will also watch minutes from Banxico’s last meetingIn Peru, Bloomberg Economics expects fourth-quarter GDP data to show the economy has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, though growth has sharply decelerated. The result should raise concerns about the 2022 outlook, the economists wrote

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg.com

Financial Post Top Stories

Sign up to receive the daily top stories from the Financial Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.

By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

Read More

Total
0
Shares
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts
Czech Rates May Exceed 6% in June, Central Bank Head Rusnok Says
Read More

Czech Rates May Exceed 6% in June, Central Bank Head Rusnok Says

Author of the article: Bloomberg News Peter Laca (Bloomberg) — The Czech central bank will probably need to raise interest rates again next month, possibly above 6%, if new data confirm persistent inflation risks, according to Governor Jiri Rusnok. The Czech National Bank has lifted borrowing costs by a cumulative 550 basis points in eight…
Strong results boost European shares ahead of Fed meeting
Read More

Strong results boost European shares ahead of Fed meeting

Author of the article: European shares scaled near seven-week highs on Wednesday following strong results from Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser and Russia-exposed lender UniCredit, while investors awaited a U.S. Federal reserve policy decision later in the day. The STOXX 600 index rose 0.4%, with sentiment also getting a lift after upbeat results from U.S. mega-caps Microsoft…
Biden talks to Walmart, UPS, Target, other CEOs on supply issues
Read More

Biden talks to Walmart, UPS, Target, other CEOs on supply issues

Author of the article: WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden spoke on Tuesday with the chief executives at Walmart Inc, United Parcel Service Inc, FedEx Corp and Target Corp to discuss speeding up deliveries and lowering prices for consumers, according to a White House official. “During the conversations, President Biden received updates from these private-sector leaders…
Sterling rises on reports UK-EU deal on N.Ireland still possible
Read More

Sterling rises on reports UK-EU deal on N.Ireland still possible

Author of the article: LONDON — Sterling edged higher on Friday after reports suggesting Britain wanted to de-escalate tensions with the European Union and renew efforts to find a solution over a Northern Ireland trade dispute. Sterling was under renewed pressure this week amid worries that disagreements between Britain and the EU could trigger major…