The Fed has made it clear it will start raising interest rates as soon as stronger data allows it to. “As a result, we should expect the Fed to begin its rate hike cycle before year-end”, explained Brigitte Le Bris, Head of Emerging Markets & Currency at Natixis Asset Management.
Impact on currencies worldwide
Higher U.S. interest rates should positively impact the U.S. dollar and negatively affect currencies with weak fundamentals or very low yields. Given the yield differentials caused by monetary policy divergence of the U.S. and other developed nations, the euro and the yen would be the first candidates to witness further depreciation.
The impact on emerging market (EM) currencies, however, is not so clear. After a short-term broad sell-off in EM currencies in early 2015, we should see some differentiation. For example, the Indian rupee and Indonesian rupiah are in a much better situation than they were in the summer of 2013. That’s because India’s current account deficit is now expected to be 0% in 2015 while it was -5% in 2012. These two currencies should be resilient, as opposed to the Turkish lira which is suffering from political jitters and structural high inflation. The South African rand may also get hit harder due to weak growth and an absence of structural reforms. I also expect Eastern European currencies to benefit from the nascent recovery in Europe, and expect the upward trend versus the euro to continue.
Emerging market debt implications
Within the EM sovereign debt universe, the low level of yields in major developed countries has pushed global investors to buy investment-grade issues. So far in 2015, this portion of the J.P. Morgan Emerging Bond Index (EMBI) has largely outperformed the high-yield portion, which has also been suffering from geopolitical risks in Russia and Venezuela, as well as oil price declines (the high-yield portion includes a lot of oil exporters).
That said, the high-yield universe is beginning to look more attractive. I think most of the underlying risks in the highyield area appear to be fading, while a higher spread should act as a buffer to any rise of U.S. government yields.
Some local markets, including the foreign exchange market (FX), offer value – including India and Indonesia. These two countries are going through a large set of reforms and their economies look quite promising. Another example is Brazil. This country is going through a severe economic adjustment but the high carry, proactive behavior of the Brazilian central bank and fiscal consolidation under way is reinsuring investors and "I am inclined to buy this market", point out Le Bris.
Overall, despite lower growth prospects for EM countries and risks associated with rising U.S. interest rates, EM debt markets are still offering attractive opportunities. "This market has just begun to mature. Investors just need to be very selective in today’s environment", said the Head of Emerging Markets & Currency at Natixis Asset Management.