Fran Rodilosso, Head of Fixed Income ETF Portfolio Management, CFA
October 28, 2019
We believe one of the most attractive features of emerging markets debt, from a portfolio construction perspective, is the diversification potential it can provide. Within emerging markets debt, local currency bonds have historically provided the greatest diversification benefit compared to U.S. dollar-denominated emerging markets sovereign or corporate bonds, as measured by the segment’s relatively low correlation to other asset classes.
Emerging Markets Local Currency Bonds Exhibit the Lowest Correlation (10/2014 - 9/2019)
Source: Morningstar as of 9/30/2019. US Aggregate is represented by the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index; US IG Corporate is represented by the ICE BofAML US Corporate Index; US HY Corporate is represented by the ICE BofAML US High Yield Index; US Equity is represented by the S&P 500; Local Currency EM Sovereign Bonds is represented by the J.P. Morgan GBI-EM Global Core Index; USD EM Sovereign Bonds is represented by the J.P. Morgan EMBI Global Diversified Index; USD EM Corporate Bonds is represented by the J.P. Morgan CEMBI Broad Diversified Index.
This diversification advantage is driven by the two distinct sources of return that local currency bonds provide: return potential from foreign currency, as well as local interest rates that increasingly tend to be influenced primarily by local conditions rather than developed markets central banks. The fourth quarter of 2018 provides a recent example of how emerging markets debt may help offset weakness experienced in other asset classes. As growth concerns mounted, credit spreads widened significantly and equity markets dropped. Emerging markets local currency bonds, as represented by the J.P. Morgan GBI-EM Global Core Index, returned 2.65%, during the quarter thanks to the substantial yields earned on the bonds as rates and currencies remained generally steady.1
Investors looking to diversify corporate bond or equity exposure, whose returns have been supported by accommodative central bank policy, may want to consider adding emerging markets local currency bond exposure. With market expectations for further cuts to U.S. interest rates and potentially less support for the U.S. dollar, we believe the return potential of emerging markets local currencies may provide a boost to portfolio returns. Further, income-seeking investors may find the yields of over 6%—based on the J.P. Morgan GBI-EM Global Core Index—to be currently attractive, and the significant carry of the asset class may provide a cushion against potential weakness elsewhere in investors’ portfolios.2
1Source: J.P. Morgan, based on Q4 2018 performance.
2Source: J.P. Morgan, as of 9/30/2019.
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Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index: is a broad-based benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market, including Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, MBS, ABS and CMBS. ICE BofAML US Corporate Index tracks the performance of US dollar denominated investment grade corporate debt publicly issued in the US domestic market. ICE BofAML US High Yield Index: is comprised of below-investment grade corporate bonds (based on an average of Moody’s, S&P and Fitch) denominated in U.S. dollars. The country of risk of qualifying issuers must be an FX-G10 member, a Western European nation, or a territory of the U.S. or a Western European nation. J.P. Morgan CEMBI Broad Diversified Index: is comprised of U.S. dollar-denominated corporate emerging markets bonds. The index weighting methodology limits the weight of countries with larger debt stocks. J.P. Morgan EMBI Global Diversified Index: is comprised of U.S. dollar-denominated Brady bonds, Eurobonds, and traded loans issued by emerging markets sovereign and quasi-sovereign entities. The index weighting methodology limits the weight of countries with larger debt stocks. J.P. Morgan GBI-EM Global Core Index (GBIEMCOR): tracks local currency denominated EM government debt. The index weighting methodology limits the weight of countries with larger debt stocks, with a maximum of 10% and a minimum of 3%. S&P 500 Index: consists of 500 widely held common stocks covering industrial, utility, financial, and transportation sector.
Index returns are not Fund returns and do not reflect any management fees or brokerage expenses. Certain indices may take into account withholding taxes. Investors cannot invest directly in the Index. Returns for actual Fund investors may differ from what is shown because of differences in timing, the amount invested and fees and expenses. Index returns assume that dividends have been reinvested.
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