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Market View

Emerging market corporate debt recently provided higher yield than similarly rated U.S. counterparts.

 

In Brief

  • For investors looking for an attractive source of income, emerging market (EM) corporate debt may be worth serious consideration. They may find these attributes particularly appealing:

        1) EM corporate debt is primarily a dollar-denominated asset class that is predominately investment grade.

        2) As of January 31, 2015, it offered higher yields than U.S. corporate debt with similar credit ratings.

        3) Yield spreads of EM corporate debt versus U.S. corporate debt were recently at their widest levels in five years, indicating potentially attractive relative value.

        4) The asset class historically has had a low correlation to U.S. bonds, thus providing portfolio diversification benefits as well.

  • The key takeaway: Investors looking for a source of income, and a means to diversify their fixed-income portfolios, may do well to consider the dollar-denominated, primarily investment-grade asset class of emerging market corporate debt.

 

Fixed-income investors who’ve been long accustomed to a reasonable yield on certain types of widely held securities may feel like they’re exploring a strange new world. Government debt of developed nations such as Germany and Japan has boldly gone where few bonds have gone before—namely, into negative yields. Even high-quality corporate debt is feeling the yield pinch. As we noted in the February 17, 2015, Market View, short-term debt issued in euros by blue-chip U.S. corporations carries rates close to zero, according to a Bloomberg report.

For investors seeking higher-yielding securities at attractive valuations, it may be time to consider a voyage outside developed markets and consider the corporate bonds from issuers in emerging market (EM) countries. Here, we’ll look at four of the potential advantages of EM corporate bonds.

1)  EM corporate debt is primarily a dollar-denominated asset class. In a recent Market View (February 17), we discussed the attractiveness of dollar-denominated U.S. assets. The U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise the fed funds rate in 2015, potentially lending further support to the U.S. dollar versus other currencies. For those who are looking for opportunity overseas, but are concerned about currency fluctuations, EM corporate debt provides attractive yields for U.S. dollar-denominated bonds.

2) EM corporate debt is predominately investment grade. One other aspect of EM corporate debt may not be widely known by investors. Nearly 70% of EM corporate debt was designated investment grade (as of January 31, 2015), based on the ratings characteristics of the JP Morgan Corporate Emerging Markets Bond Index (CEMBI). Even with that credit profile, EM corporate debt features higher yields than similarly rated U.S. corporate debt (see Chart 1).

 

Chart 1. Emerging Market Corporate Debt Has Featured Higher Yields Than Similarly Rated U.S. Counterparts
Average yield by credit rating, as of January 31, 2015 (latest data available)

Source: BofA Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan. U.S. corporates are represented by the BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. Corporate Master Index (yields broken out by credit quality). EM corporates are represented by the J.P. Morgan CEMBI Broad Diversified Index (yields broken out by credit quality).

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The illustration is intended to depict the historical average yield of emerging -market corporate bonds relative to other U.S. corporate bonds and is presented for informational purposes only and does not depict actual yield or predict the performance of any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect deductions of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment. Credit ratings are derived from a nationally recognized statistical rating organization, such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, or Fitch.

 

3) EM corporate debt appears attractively valued. Along with the extra yield, EM corporate debt appears to have another favorable attribute: an attractive valuation relative to similar debt categories in the United States. Current yield spreads of EM corporate debt versus similar U.S. debt categories—investment grade and high-yield corporate debt—are at or near their widest levels in five years. (See Chart 2.) This signals a relative value opportunity in the asset class, according to Stephen Hillebrecht, Lord Abbett Fixed Income Product Strategist.

 

Chart 2. EM Corporate Yield Spreads versus U.S. Debt Have Been at Their Widest Levels in Five Years
Yield spread of EM corporate debt versus U.S. investment-grade corporate debt, January 2010–January 2015

Yield spread of EM corporate debt versus U.S. high-yield corporate debt, January 2010–January 2015

Source: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. These charts depict the historical average yield spread of (i) the BofA ML Emerging Markets Corporate Plus Index versus the BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. Corporate Index  and (ii) the BofA Merrill Lynch Emerging Markets Corporate Plus Index versus the BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Index.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This data is presented for informational purposes only and does not depict actual yield or predict the performance of any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect deductions of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment.

 

4) The asset class historically has had a low correlation to U.S. bonds. In addition, emerging market corporate debt historically has had a low correlation with U.S. bonds, according to Morningstar data. That may prove attractive to investors seeking to diversify their U.S. fixed-income portfolios.

“Our experience in this market has convinced us of the potential for future growth” in EM corporate debt, said Jerry Lanzotti, Lord Abbett Partner & Portfolio Manager. “We believe that active management—that is, applying the knowledge of experienced credit and risk analysts—can best capitalize on the opportunities there.”

 

MARKET VIEW PDFs


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GLOBE TROTTING FOR YIELD
The Lord Abbett Emerging Markets Corporate Debt mutual fund seeks to deliver current income and long-term growth of capital. View portfolio and more.

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