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Five insights in five minutes

Five in Five: Fed, Asia credit, circular economy, China, ESG
18. Mär 2022

    Fed rate hike

    Shock news headline! Central Bank with Price Stability Mandate Lifts Rates to Stabilise Prices. Indeed, the predictability of Wednesday’s 25 basis point rise in the Fed’s target range is why the move is even less important than usual (especially compared with the events in Ukraine, oil prices, or Beijing’s support of local markets). That said, some reckon a higher 2.8 per cent median projection for policy rates in 2023 and 2024 – above the so-called neutral rate of 2.4 per cent – signals the Fed’s desire to tighten monetary conditions, as opposed to just returning them to normal. Does that matter, either? As can be seen below, US financial conditions have been up and down for a decade, over which time global stocks more than doubled. What’s more, the index actually started to plummet last November (as risk assets soared and bond yields rose) before finally moving negative a month ago. Ultimately, monetary conditions don’t affect long-run asset prices because they usually tighten when the future looks rosier and vice versa – and hence a balance is maintained.

    Conversation starter for… global equities and fixed income, US equities and credit, multi-asset

    Fed rate hike  

    Asia high yield

    Meanwhile if you think it’s been a turbulent ride in western asset prices recently, Asian credit markets are off the charts – almost literally as can be seen below! Over the past few months, yields have soared due to geopolitical events, the resurgence of covid-19, and disappointing stimulus measures in China, to name but three. The volatility is pulling old relationships apart. For example, while Asian and emerging market investment grade corporate bond yields continue to move hand in hand, their higher yielding peers don’t seem to have anything in common anymore. Asian yields have now reached 15 per cent for the latter. That is six per cent more than the broader emerging market equivalent, despite half the average duration. And Asian corporate fundamentals are improving, with leverage easing towards pre-pandemic levels, notably thanks to stronger earnings. But a 13 per cent default rate – even if mostly driven by the Chinese real estate sector – is inevitably pushing valuations to extreme levels. Attractive risk-adjusted opportunities abound for those able to be selective.

    Conversation starter for… Asian high yield, emerging market credit

    Asia high yield  

    Circular economy

    With today’s stressed supply chains and elevated commodities prices, the chart below is food for thought. It shows that globally, we consume more than 12 metric tonnes of natural resources per person – an increase of 40 per cent in less than two decades. Cumulatively, that’s about 1.5 earths each year, or 60 per cent more resources than the planet can regenerate. With high income countries relying on elsewhere in the world for two-fifths of their materials, a more circular economy is the only legitimate solution to this growing problem. All the more so given the booming consumption by upper-middle-income countries since 2000, as can be seen in the chart. This means extending the lifecycle of products and reusing materials along the supply chain – both of which should ultimately lower input costs for businesses in the long-run. The transition to a circular economy is in its early stages. But with consumers opting for companies with better sustainability credentials, the investment opportunities are infinite.

    Conversation starter for… circular economy funds, private equity

    Circular economy  

    China equities

    In recent days, if you were asked to give an outlook for the Chinese equity market, we recommend the famously succinct answer once uttered by John Pierpont Morgan: “It will fluctuate.” The MSCI China index lost more than a fifth of its value in less than three weeks after Ukraine hit the news. The speed and size of the decline was also due to additional worries around potential de-listings of Chinese ADRs in the US, as well as tougher enforcement of regulations in the tech sector. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that just seven internet companies alone accounted for almost half of the index’s total loss over the period. On the other hand, although the plunge was wide-spread, old economy stocks cushioned the blow. As the chart below indicates, energy, financials, and utilities were down only about half as much as the general market. But all these happened before the spectacular 15 per cent rebound on Wednesday. Some fluctuation indeed!

    Conversation starter for… China equities, Asia equities

    China equities  

    E and S investing

    We usually think about the ‘E’ and ‘S’ in ESG separately, but what about the effect of the former on the latter? Climate change, for example, disproportionately affects minority groups across the world. A recent US study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that black individuals are 40 per cent more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in mortality rates due to extreme temperatures from climate-driven changes. On a wider scale, wealthy countries lead per capita emissions (as per the below chart) whilst certain emerging markets feel the brunt of climate change. Take Africa, which accounts for less than four per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions but will be one of the worst affected areas. The IPCC estimates that nearly 80 per cent of the world’s population at risk from climate change live in Africa and Asia. Hence the importance of not only analysing the magnitude of a company’s environmental impact, but also who is vulnerable and what is being done about it.

    Conversation starter for… climate change, net-zero, ESG strategies

    E and S investing  

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