The world is fast entering the adjustment phase as deglobalisation is accelerating, requiring new solutions and investment to clear new imbalances from energy supply to labour and eventually normalise inflation.
In recent years, the increased focus on ESG has validated our beliefs. Yet, the complex and fast-changing economies and societies that make up Asia continue to be a challenge confronting investors looking to apply ESG analysis across Asian asset classes. This is a good thing, as investors who can do this successfully will likely add even more value to alpha generation.
Inflationary pressures continued to remain elevated in July, as the headline CPI numbers in South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines increased, while those of Thailand and India moderated. During the month, the central banks of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and India raised their key policy rates.
The regional index of the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan in August was flat at 0.0% in US dollar terms, recovering after falling into negative territory earlier. The North Asian region was weighed down by foreign currency effects, trailing behind its ASEAN counterpart. India benefitted from its rate hike and lower oil prices.
In an encouraging sign for New Zealand equities, the benchmark NZX 50 Index ended August approximately 10% higher compared to the lows it saw in June, when it dropped below the 11,000 level for the first time in two years. However, the market still faces challenges given that at the end of August the index was also down about 10% compared to the start of 2022.
New Zealand bonds went through a tough period in August. The rough patch reflects continuing uncertainty, with the bond market undecided about whether it should focus on inflation itself or pay more specific attention to the measures that central banks are adopting to deal with it.
This month we discuss the factors behind Japan’s high level of share buybacks; we also look at the economic implications of COVID in the wake of a particularly large infection wave.
Utilising and regenerating Japan’s ample forest resources by promoting a “wood cycle” could contribute to the creation of economic wealth and a net-zero carbon future.
The just-released 2Q CY22 data on aggregate corporate profits in Japan was very positive, with the overall corporate recurring pre-tax profit margin hitting a record high on a four quarter average.
Our belief is that we have moved into a new regime where inflation will be structurally higher despite the anchors of high debt burdens, ageing societies and ongoing technological disruption.
We are taking a more constructive view in duration overall, as we believe that the markets have largely priced in hawkish Fed expectations. Among the low-yielding countries, we prefer Singapore and Hong Kong, while we like Malaysia and India among the mid- to high-yielding countries. On currencies, we maintain our preference for the Singapore dollar.
It may be easy to become gloomy after the drawdown of the last few months. But we believe that there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for compounding your future capital from today’s levels, if you take into account the following three steps: 1) recognise that that we have shifted to a different road type, and it is rougher and more variable; 2) realise that this new road may be best travelled with different vehicles; and 3) improve your probabilities by sticking to a few enduring principles.
The shift in market narratives continues to gather pace, matching the increase in volatility of the economic cycle seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Central banks are generally aiming to smooth the economic cycle, but this time they may be adding to the volatility of the cycle instead.
Higher commodity prices impacted returns in Asia, while a slip in prices of crude oil and metals benefitted many Asian nations. We expect the future trajectory of inflation to dictate the path of interest rates, which in turn is seen determining economic growth globally.
Asia high yield credit had a tough start to 2022, succumbing to heavy selling pressure . Apart from geopolitical tensions, tighter financial conditions and rising recession risk in major developed economies, sentiment toward Asia HY has been heavily weighed down by sustained stress in China’s property sector. Going forward, we believe the pace of correction will moderate.
We take a look at the short and long term prospects of Abenomics without Abe, and we also discuss the recent trend of an increasing number of Japanese companies passing on higher costs to consumers and whether this phenomenon can continue.
This month we focus on two ESG-linked themes that generate a significant amount of investor interest: carbon neutrality and modern slavery.
As we have already mentioned several times, it has been a very tough year for New Zealand bonds. Although there is perhaps light at the end of the tunnel after the market hit a very low point; in our view, good quality assets could outperform cash over the medium term.
We present our Q3 2022 outlook for the Global Unconstrained Bond Strategy which incorporates our core markets, emerging markets and global credit views.
We explain why we are more positive on Asia bonds than we were at the beginning of 2022. To begin with, inflation in Asia is less severe compared to other regions, lessening the need for Asian central banks to tighten aggressively. This makes Asia bonds attractive from a real yield perspective.
The East and West appear to be headed in different directions. The East may benefit from China’s easing and supportive growth characteristics. Meanwhile, the West is mired in slowing growth, excessive levels of inflation and central banks ever more eager to take down inflation through conventional tool kits designed to slow demand.
Inflationary pressures accelerated in May across the region, due to higher transport and food prices. We maintain our preference for Malaysian bonds, as we believe that inflation will be better contained in Malaysia compared to other countries.
As New Zealand grapples with inflation and the spectre of a recession, we highlight the impact increasing mortgage rates may have on consumer spending. This is an important theme as it ties in with how we need to consider absolute interest rate levels.
As in the rest of the world, times are tough for New Zealand’s economy. Even so, given that stagflation occurs when higher inflation is combined with slower economic growth and rising unemployment, New Zealand is contending with the negative growth and inflationary aspects of stagflation without the accompanying unemployment issues.
As it often is when Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party wins an election by an impressive amount, the initial equity market reaction was positive. But the ramifications of the ruling party’s upper house election victory will in the intermediate term be a function of what happens to the global economy and geopolitics in the months and quarters ahead.