The bribery scandal at FIFA has shown what huge reputations risks companies may face if they do business with partners that do not care about environmental, social, and corporate governance standards (ESG). The discussion about ESG has therefore gained in importance over the past months. The investors play an important part in this context, as they can themselves nudge companies towards social responsibility and transparency. Gerold Permoser, Chief Investment Officer of Erste Asset Management (EAM) in Vienna explains why the so-called engagement is important.
Developed equity markets are in the 6th year of a robust upward move. The MSCI Developed World Index rose by almost 18% per annum over the period (Mar 2009-June 2015) in Euro-terms. However, momentum has stalled in recent months. Stepan Mikolasek, new head of equity management of Erste Asset Management, names the main reasons: surprisingly weak US economic growth in the first quarter, concerns about China’s economy, the fear of a Fed rate hike and growing risk related to the Greek situation.
The breakdown of the negotiations between Greece and its creditors as well as the planned referendum on 5 July troubles capital markets. Greece itself is formally not insolvent. As long that this is not the case the European Central Bank (ECB) will do whatever it takes to contain spillover risks. After the referendum, the next key date will be 20 July, where bonds issued by the ECB will be payable. Until then a number of decisions has to be taken and a new financial package negotiated.
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.
The longest eleventh hour in recent history is drawing to a close. However, while the negotiations earlier this week seem to have narrowed the gap between Greece and its creditors, a final deal has not emerged yet.
Summary: The economic recovery in the developed economies is supported by the very expansive monetary policies, lower austerity pressure on the government front and among banks, and the fallen oil price. Growth rates remain moderate. In the emerging markets we can see signs of low-level stabilisation at best. The possible default of Greece, excessive interest rate hikes in the USA, a further decline of productivity, and continued economic weakening in the emerging markets are the main risks the markets are faced with.
Construction is becoming sustainable: More and more buildings carry so-called “green building labels”, but only few of these certificates are transnational. Follow Erste Asset Management on its trip trough the green label jungle.
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 upcoming parliamentary elections on Sunday in Turkey could force Erdogan to postpone his plan for a new constitution and could lead to new political leaders in the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economics. This would trigger an increase in uncertainty and consequently a higher degree of volatility for the Turkish Lira and the Istanbul stock Exchange.
Based on earnings expectations emerging markets equities are currently valued 27% below the price/earnings ratio of developed markets equities. The long term average of this discount is 19%. Closing the gap is a question whether the confidence of the markets in the earnings expectations is solid enough to facilitate a re-(e)valuation.