An interview with Anton Hauser, senior fund manager ERSTE BOND DANUBIA, about the yield opportunities of East European bonds.
Author: Martina Groll, Senior Fund Manager
The bond purchase programme of the European Central Bank has caused a drought on the bond markets. As a result, investors now have to take into account the liquidity risk on top of the interest rate risk and the default risk.
Everybody who has read academic literature on the performance of shares will know about the fact that value shares (and small cap shares) outperform so-called growth shares in the long run.
In an interview with Péter Varga, Senior Fund Manager Erste Asset Management, I am discussing the chances and risks with investments in emerging markets corporate bonds. Many Investors feel unsettled by the weak performance of the emerging markets. Why is this the case?
Following last week’s surprisingly strong employment report, the odds that the US Federal Bank will start raising its policy rate at the next FOMC-meeting in December jumped to almost 70%. Of course, 70% is still short of 100%, but most observers believe that something terrible must happen in the next four weeks to make the Fed reconsider, particularly in light of President Yellen’s statement in September that the FOMC’s thinking suggests a “call for a funds rate increase later this year”.
While the case for starting the lift-off remains a close call as Kenneth Rogoff pointed out, it has strengthened in recent weeks as US economic data have turned more positive relative to expectations, according to Citi’s economic surprise index. Most importantly, the improvement in the job market is continuing. The US economy has been adding, on average, 200,000 jobs in the non-farm sector each month in 2015.Read more
Interest rate decision by the Fed
Tomorrow, Thursday 17 September 2015, the federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the US central bank Fed will be taking an important decision. Is the Fed funds rate to be raised or not? The financial markets have accorded this decision a particularly important role. After all, the rate hike by the most important central bank in the world could cause the degree of instability on the financial market to continue rising.
Regardless of whether or not a rate hike materialises, the Fed will communicate that the interest rate cycle will only be set off very gradually. At the same time, the projection for the final level of the cycle will probably be taken down a bit. If the Fed managed to alleviate the worries of excessive rate hikes, a slight increase of the Fed funds rate on coming Thursday would not upset the financial markets in any sustainable fashion. However, the weakest segments in the emerging countries would come under pressure.
In searching for a perfect example of a sideways market one does not need to look further than at Central and Eastern European (CEE) equity markets. The CECE Composite, a Euro-based index of 23 Polish, Czech and Hungarian blue-chips (Bloomberg: CECEEUR), has been range bound for nearly four years, rarely trading outside a narrow range of ±8% from its mean over the period. A recent spike by 23% that started in January and lifted the index beyond this trading range was halted by the escalation of Greece-related risks. The only market in the region that has participated in the broader equity rally in Europe and the US in recent years has been the Romanian market.
After the recent, rather substantial corrections on the bond markets many investors were wondering:
“Can or should I still invest in bonds or bond funds in view of possibly rising interest rates?”
Let’s first have a look at the bonds with the highest quality within the Eurozone, i.e. German government bonds. Where have the prices of these bonds gone most recently?
In our example, we have chosen a 10Y German government bond.
Eurozone government bonds have ensured very good performance returns in the past years. The asset class has benefited from the zero interest rate policy and the very expansive monetary policy of the European Central Bank.
In recent weeks the prices of bonds from Eurozone countries have gone through a correction, above all German government bonds. The reasons for the specific timing of the correction are numerous and cannot easily be pinned down. In spite of slight improvements, we do not expect an interest rate reversal for the Eurozone at this point in time. The fundamentals for such a scenario are not in place.
Euro government bonds are an important component of a portfolio. From both risk and return considerations, a diversification across a broad spectrum of assets makes sense (e.g. by adding high-yield bonds, emerging markets bonds or equities).
The big trends of the past weeks such as the appreciation of the US dollar, the weakening oil price, falling yields, and the outperformance of Eurozone equities have reversed in the past days and weeks, in some cases drastically so.
What is behind all of this?
When both demand (i.e. economic growth) and supply (i.e. production growth) are weak and the central bank policies are very loose, we have a textbook example of an environment causing yields to fall and/or remain low. Indeed, yields were high after the Great Depression in 2008/2009. Having transitioned to a slow, weak, and fragile recovery, yields have started to fall and bond prices have started to rise (i.e. asset price inflation). Even if the economic regime remains unchanged, the market environment may change; the higher the asset price, the lower the expected return or yield.