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10/30/14: Even though Russia’s Central Bank has been intervening almost daily to soften the decline of the ruble, it has been unable to stop the currency’s slide. The WSJ quotes Eric Fine: "The ruble is poised to stay volatile. Whether it gets stronger or weaker, I wouldn’t own any Russian assets. Not because they’re not valuable…but the sanctions make it way too risky. The upside is not worth that downside." View article »
8/27/14: Reuters analyzes the run-up to Brazil’s upcoming presidential election and consults Eric Fine. According to Fine, candidate Marina Silva “passes the message that she would be the country’s president and not its chief economist…But because of Brazil’s economic problems, the situation may require someone who’s more tested.” View article »
8/9/14: Barron’s discusses the recent performance of several investments that contain exposure to Russia and consults Eric Fine on the outlook for emerging markets bonds. "Russia is such a big part of the [JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond] index that most investors satisfied themselves with underweight positions. But what if they all decided to go to zero weight after the sanctions?"View article »
7/30/14: Investment News asks investment experts to weigh in on the implications of Argentina’s default. According to Eric Fine, “It [Argentina] offers good upside relative to the downside. We want to have exposure.” View article »
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By: Eric Fine, Portfolio Manager
The Fund’s biggest winners were Panama, Uruguay, and Romania, while its biggest losers were Ukraine, Belarus, and Ecuador, where lower oil prices and local political/economic risks (Ukraine) were largely the main drivers in December.
The broad themes that characterize our portfolio remain unchanged and we are still comfortable with duration. We maintain our selective exposure to high-rated, high-quality, and most liquid sovereigns and we continue to limit our corporate exposure. We still prefer hard-currency over local-currency denominated debt (selective longs in Brazil debt and China offshore debt are our only exposure in local-currency). We have no Russia/Ukraine-related exposure and have some exposure in idiosyncratic Argentina and Vietnam bonds, while having significantly reduced our exposure to Venezuela debt.
Why reduce Venezuela exposure? First, we believe its government’s inability to come up with a coherent plan of structural reforms, especially with regard to exchange rate liberalization and higher domestic gasoline prices, despite a more challenging external environment, is disappointing. As we have pointed out on previous occasions, the government’s overall policy stance appeared to be a bit more pragmatic. However, many changes are “cosmetic” in nature and the failure to deliver on the structural front could imply that Venezuela might not be able to improve its macroeconomic position as fast as required by the current falling oil prices.
Second, the political noise in Venezuela is getting louder once again – there are reports about long lines in stores and street protests – and this might affect the performance of bonds in the near term. Third, low oil prices imply smaller current account receipts (oil accounts for over 90% of Venezuela’s export revenue) and we need more information on the country’s external financing options in the absence of the internal structural adjustment. The recent meetings between Chinese and Venezuelan officials generated only vague headlines about “financial cooperation plans” without providing information about new credit/swap lines or (beneficial for Venezuela) modifications of the existing agreements. President Maduro’s recent trips to the Middle East also failed to clarify this situation, while there is still much uncertainty about potential securitization of the Petrocaribe debt.
Why hard-currency over local-currency denominated debt? The first reason is that, in our opinion, emerging markets growth is likely to continue to struggle in 2015. By contrast, the U.S. economy should continue to perform well providing additional support for the U.S. dollar. Another consideration is that the commodity price weakness should likely have a significant impact on emerging markets and emerging markets’ assets. The link between commodity prices and emerging markets’ currencies appears to be particularly strong. Finally, even though positioning cleared somewhat in the last weeks of 2014, in our view there is still potential for sizeable outflows in the situation when the net issuance of emerging markets government local currency debt is expected to decline only marginally in 2015. By contrast, J.P. Morgan expects a sizeable $15.4bn decline in emerging markets net sovereign issuance this year.
Read full December Commentary >>
Eric Fine and Fran Rodilosso
"The Hong Kong protests are not likely to impact credit markets in any direct sense. We do think, however, that these types of protests are likely to increase around the world....atomization is happening and we're going to see more of this in Europe and perhaps in other countries."
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Portfolio Manager, Van Eck Unconstrained Emerging Markets Bond Strategy
"Our starting point is comparing countries' fundamentals to what premium you're getting. Are you getting paid for that risk? Looking at fundamentals alone and putting the important technical default issues to the side, one finds that Argentina is cheap. It's paying spreads that are too high for its fundamentals."
"The Russian economy was already in bad shape when it entered this crisis. It was saddled with high inflation, low growth, and to a large extent, the country's just a gas station. It's very dependent on one product that is central to the economy."
Eric Fine and Natalia Gurushina
Portfolio Manager and Economist, Van Eck Unconstrained Emerging Markets Bond Investment Team
"I think Poland is uniquely positioned to benefit from Germany's rebound... My key concern about Poland, however, is potential exposure to change in sentiment from political risks in Ukraine."
"The macroeconomic fundamentals in Turkey are getting worse. Turkey is vulnerable, but it’s always been vulnerable. It’s never had enough reserves. Its real interest rates have never been that satisfying. But the political context is the worst I’ve seen in twenty years."
"The scenario of civil war and perhaps a civil war that has broader implications for the region is a scenario we have to think about. It's hard to assign probabilities to that, but the market seems to be saying it's a zero and I think zero is definitely the wrong answer."
Portfolio Manager, Van Eck Unconstrained Emerging Markets Bond Fund
"I don't have a blanket answer that says the taper is just not an issue for EM, but I do think it's been priced in generally. I think some countries have been able to react, and if tapering's happening because of good final demand, because economies are growing, then that's a high-quality problem for EM countries."
"In one word, the value of an unconstrained approach to emerging markets bond portfolio investing is ‘flexibility’. The market changed a lot in the past 20 years. At first, it was only hard currency bonds. Then came hard currency corporates followed by local currency sovereigns. Nowadays, local currency corporates are becoming more prominent. Having an unconstrained mandate is key to optimizing the portfolio using all four sub asset classes."
Improvements in economic policies, strong balance sheets and improved creditworthiness of local governments continue to foster a strong case for investment in the emerging markets bonds.
Emerging Market Bonds Defined
“Emerging Markets Hard Currency Bonds” are bonds denominated in foreign currencies that are generally widely accepted around the world (such as the US Dollar, Euro or Yen).
“Emerging Markets Local Currency Bonds” are bonds denominated in the local currency of the issuer.
“Emerging Markets Sovereign Bonds” are bonds issued by national governments of emerging countries in order to finance a country's growth.
“Emerging Markets Quasi Sovereign Bonds” are bonds issued by corporations domiciled in emerging countries that are either 100% government owned or whose debts are 100% government guaranteed.
“Emerging Markets Corporate Bonds” are bonds issued by non-government owned corporations that are domiciled in emerging countries.
Long term, an allocation to emerging markets bonds may provide diversification benefits as emerging markets fixed income tends to be less correlated to developed market fixed income.
Unless otherwise stated, portfolio facts and statistics are shown for Class A shares; other classes may have different characteristics.
†NAV: Unless you are eligible for a waiver, the public offering price you pay when you buy Class A shares of the Fund is the Net Asset Value (NAV) of the shares plus an initial sales charge. The initial sales charge varies depending upon the size of your purchase. No sales charge is imposed where Class A or Class C shares are issued to you pursuant to the automatic investment of income dividends or capital gains distribution. It is the responsibility of the financial intermediary to ensure that the investor obtains the proper “breakpoint” discount. Class C, Class I and Class Y do not have an initial sales charge; however, Class C does charge a contingent deferred redemption charge. See the prospectus and summary prospectus for more information.
1Van Eck Associates Corporation (the “Adviser”) has agreed to waive fees and/or pay Fund expenses to the extent necessary to prevent the operating expenses of the Fund (excluding acquired fund fees and expenses, interest expense, trading expenses, dividends and interest payments on securities sold short, taxes and extraordinary expenses) from exceeding 1.25% for Class A, 1.95% for Class C, 0.95% for Class I, and 1.00% for Class Y of the Fund’s average daily net assets per year until May 1, 2015. During such time, the expense limitation is expected to continue until the Board of Trustees acts to discontinue all or a portion of such expense limitation.
2The J.P. Morgan Government Bond Index-Emerging Markets Global Diversified (GBI-EM) tracks local currency bonds issued by Emerging Markets governments. The index spans over 15 countries. The J.P. Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index Global Diversified (EMBI) tracks returns for actively traded external debt instruments in emerging markets, and is also J.P. Morgan’s most liquid U.S-dollar emerging markets debt benchmark.
3Average Yield to Worst measures the lowest of either yield-to-maturity or yield-to-call date on every possible call date. Effective duration takes into account that expected cash flows will fluctuate as interest rates change. Effective maturity is the length of time until a fixed income investment returns its original investment. Distribution Yield is the amount of cash flow paid out and is calculated by dividing the annual income (interest or dividends) by the current price of the security. Averages are market weighted. These statistics do not take into account fees and expenses associated with investments or the Fund.
The views and opinions expressed are those of Van Eck Global. Fund manager commentaries are general in nature and should not be construed as investment advice. Opinions are subject to change with market conditions. Any discussion of specific securities mentioned in the commentaries is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation to buy these securities. Fund holdings will vary.
You can lose money by investing in the Fund. Any investment in the Fund should be part of an overall investment program, not a complete program. The Fund is subject to risks associated with its investments in emerging markets securities. Investing in foreign denominated and/or domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. As the Fund may invest in securities denominated in foreign currencies and some of the income received by the Fund will be in foreign currencies, changes in currency exchange rates may negatively impact the Fund’s return. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. The Fund may also be subject to credit risk, interest rate risk, sovereign debt risk, tax risk, non-diversification risk and risks associated with non-investment grade securities. Please see the prospectus and summary prospectus for information on these and other risk considerations.
Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal. An investor should consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the investment company carefully before investing. Bond and bond funds will decrease in value as interest rates rise. The prospectus and summary prospectus contain this and other information. Please read them carefully before investing.
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