Measure for measure: Putting the emerging market debt sell-off in context

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Emerging market debt (EMD) has had challenging year-to-date performance, and investors are questioning whether this is merely a performance correction after a strong two-year spell, or the start of something bigger. There are some similarities between the current sell-off and 2013’s ‘taper tantrum’, with both influenced to an extent by Federal Reserve (Fed) policy normalisation. If this serves as a useful point of reference, much of the sell-off has already likely materialised. Chief among investor concerns are two key global macro risks with uncertain outcomes – policy normalisation and trade protectionism. This backdrop of global macro uncertainty has intensified the focus on emerging market (EM) vulnerabilities. However, technicals rather than fundamentals have exacerbated this sell-off, with a big unwind of cross-over investor positioning. Relative to 2013, we believe EMs are in a fundamentally stronger position in aggregate. The dislocation created as a result of the indiscriminate selling may also create new investment opportunities for investors able to adopt a flexible approach.

Colm McDonagh – head of Emerging Market Fixed Income. Insight Investment, a BNY Mellon company

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