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Market View

Income investors take note: yields on government and corporate emerging-market securities are higher than similarly rated U.S. issues.

Fixed-income investors seeking attractive income opportunities might do well to expand their horizons beyond developed markets such as those in the United States and Europe.  Such investors may be surprised to learn that emerging-market (EM) bonds have been among the best-performing fixed-income categories year to date through July 3, outperforming domestic high-grade and high-yield bonds (see Chart 1).  

A recent Barron’s article underscored the renewed investor focus on emerging-market bonds.1 One analyst cited in the article noted that U.S. benchmark interest rates are widely expected to rise later this year, and while inflationary risk is not yet reflected in U.S. bond yields, “emerging-market bonds already have tapering and inflationary risks priced in.” 

 

Chart 1. EM Debt Has Outperformed Key U.S. Bond Categories in 2014
Year-to-date (through 06/30/2014) returns for selected bond categories

Source: Barclays, BofA Merrill Lynch, and JP Morgan.
Barclays Aggregate represented by the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index. U.S. high-yield bonds are represented by the BofA Merrill Lynch High Yield Master II Constrained Index. U.S. investment-grade corporate bonds are represented by the Barclays U.S. Corporate Bond Index. EM government debt (local currency) is represented by the J.P. Morgan Government Emerging Markets Bond Index Global Diversified (GBI-EM GLOBAL). EM corporate bonds are represented by the J.P. Morgan Corporate Emerging Markets Bond Index Broad Diversified (CEMBI BD).
Due to market volatility, there is no guarantee that markets will perform in a similar manner under similar conditions in the future.
The historical data are for illustrative purposes only, do not represent the performance of any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment, and are not intended to predict or depict future results. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect the deduction of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The value of an investment in fixed-income securities will change as interest rates fluctuate and in response to market movements. As interest rates fall, the prices of debt securities tend to rise. As rates rise, prices tend to fall.

 

The opportunity for continued attractive yield in a world of slow growth lends appeal to the two main categories of EM bonds. Emerging-market local-currency government bonds currently are attracting investors for their yield and return potential, noted Leah Traub, Lord Abbett Partner & Portfolio Manager. Longer maturities, in particular, are attracting institutional investors, both domestic and foreign. Traub said that improved fiscal and monetary policies have strengthened EM economies and created a stronger base of domestic investors. This, in turn, has allowed EM governments to meet a greater proportion of their longer-term borrowing requirements by issuing securities in their own currencies, instead of foreign currencies.

Meanwhile, the fundamentals of EM corporate bonds are also appealing, according to Jerry Lanzotti, Lord Abbett Partner & Portfolio Manager. He noted that emerging markets are home to many strong global enterprises, some of which are world leaders in their respective industries. EM companies are becoming more competitive in the global economy, often acquiring firms in developed nations. Record-low borrowing costs in recent years, as well as investment and refinancing needs, has fueled the expansion of the EM corporate bond universe, according to Lanzotti. And as banks have continued to scale back term lending in the face of capital-adequacy tests, more and more EM companies have been tapping the capital markets. [Foreign investments, including emerging-market government and corporate debt, generally pose greater risks than domestic investments, including greater price fluctuations and higher transaction costs. Special risks are inherent in international investing, including those related to currency fluctuations and foreign, political, and economic events.]

As investors search for yield, they may find that the relative value in EM corporate bonds is very high compared with U.S. corporate bonds (see Chart 2).  Across the credit rating spectrum, EM corporate bonds recently offered higher yields than similarly rated U.S. securities. 

 

Chart 2. Yields on EM Corporate Debt Outstrip Those of Similarly Rated U.S. Issues
Yields on emerging-market and U.S. corporate debt, by ratings category (as of 06/30/2014)

Source: BofA Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan. U.S. corporates are represented by the BofA/ML U.S. Corporate Master Index (yields broken out by credit quality). EM corporates as represented by the J.P. Morgan CEMBI Broad Diversified Index (yields broken out by credit quality). Data as of June 30, 2014.
Performance quoted represents past performance. Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. The historical data shown in the chart are for illustrative purposes only and do not represent any Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect the deduction of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment.
Average yield to worst is the lowest potential yield that can be received on a bond without the issuer defaulting.

 

But, by and large, U.S. investors are not taking advantage of the potential growth opportunity that exists in this market, according to Lanzotti. This is surprising when one considers the fact that the asset class is predominately investment grade, and historically has had low correlation to U.S. government bonds, thus providing portfolio diversification benefits as well.

“We believe investors would be wise to consider emerging market corporate bonds as part of a diversified portfolio,” said Lanzotti.

 

1Shuli Ren, “EM Bond Funds Rising: Hedge Against U.S. Treasuries,” Barron’s, June 27, 2014.

RELATED RESOURCES


  Market View
  U.S. Market Monitor

RELATED FUND
The Fund seeks to deliver current income and long term growth of capital by investing primarily in emerging market corporate debt securities.
RELATED FUND
The Fund seeks to deliver current income and long-term growth of capital by investing primarily in emerging market debt securities and other instruments denominated in local currencies.

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