On 19 May 2017, S&P upgraded Indonesia’ sovereign rating to BBB- with a stable outlook from BB+ with a positive outlook. In the longer term, the market is expecting that this rating upgrade will result in inflows of as much as USD 5bn into the bond market, particularly from Japanese investors who require a full investment grade rating from the three rating agencies.
MSCI Asia ex Japan (AxJ) was up another 2.2% in USD terms, outperforming the MSCI AC World. All AxJ markets ended higher in April. Robust economic data from China offset concerns over President's Trump's ability to pass through sweeping corporate tax cuts in the US.
10-year US Treasury (UST) yields ended the month at 2.28%, about 11 basis points (bps) lower compared to end-March levels. Mixed economic data and rising geopolitical tensions drove sentiment over the month. Towards the month-end, market sentiment improved after pro-euro French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron secured the most number of votes in the first round of elections.
MSCI Asia ex Japan (AxJ) was up 3.3% in USD terms, outperforming MSCI AC World. All Asian markets rose over the month, with gains led by India and Korea. The Indian Rupee was also the best-performing currency in March. The US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 25 basis points (bps), as widely expected.
US Treasury (UST) yields rose in the first half of the month buoyed by hawkish comments from the Federal Reserve (Fed), a solid US jobs report and possible scale back of quantitative easing (QE) by the European Central Bank (ECB). While the Fed raised short-term interest rates, as expected, the absence of a more hawkish tone from the central bank triggered a drop in UST yields.
The Trump reflation trade may have lost some of its shine during the quarter, but any disappointment was more than overshadowed by strong global data as exports and production continued to gather pace. In fact, fading enthusiasm for Trump’s ability to execute has arguably served as a tailwind for Emerging Market (EM) assets in the form of a weaker dollar and moderating long term rates.
MSCI Asia ex Japan (AxJ) was up 3.4% in USD terms, marginally outperforming MSCI AC World. Absolute returns were positive for all AxJ markets except the Philippines. The Taiwan Dollar (TWD) was the best performing currency in AxJ followed by the Korean Won and Indian Rupee. Buoyed by the partial unwind of the post-election Trump-trade, gold was the best performing commodity.
US Treasury (UST) yields traded in a tight range in February. Risk assets rallied and UST yields rose in the first half of the month, on the back of the prospect of tax cuts and a Dodd-Frank overhaul in the US. Subsequently, yields were pressured lower by concerns about a possible victory by Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections. Overall, the 2-year and 10-year points on the UST curve ended the month about 6 basis points (bps) higher and 6bps lower respectively.
With President Trump announcing that he will be releasing his tax plans in the coming weeks, we have shifted to a more cautious position on US duration. The risk is that President Trump announces a sizeable stimulus package, with the backing of the broad Republican base. This would raise fears that the US Federal Reserve would need to act more quickly than expected, and with markets only pricing in two or three rate hikes in 2017, we believe that markets are under-pricing the risks of this announcement.
Asia ex-Japan (AxJ) equities returned 6.2% in US Dollar (USD) terms, outperforming MSCI World. Singapore, Hong Kong and Chinese equities outperformed while Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand lagged. Asian currencies generally strengthened against the USD over the month.
US Treasury (UST) yields ended higher in January as weaker-than-expected payroll data led markets to moderate their forecasts for Federal Reserve (Fed) rate hikes in 2017. Overall, 2-year and 10-year UST yields rose about 2 and 1 basis points (bps) respectively in the month.
Donald Trump winning the US presidential election delivered a big surprise, defying poll predictions but ringing consistent with the wave of populism sweeping the developed world. First witnessed early last summer with the Brexit vote, the rise of populism remains a key risk in Europe, while the implications for the shift in US policy are more likely to be mixed.
Credit markets are expected to have another positive year. We expect economic growth in Asia to be stable but see some potential downside risks. In Europe, political risk remains high for 2017. Some of our key themes are: hybrid bonds, financials, oil/emerging markets and High Yield.
Economic growth in Asia is expected to remain broadly stable in 2017. While there will be greater external uncertainties as well as country-specific challenges, Asian economies are, on balance, better equipped to deal with external pressures compared to a few years back.
Asia ex-Japan (AxJ) equities returned -2.0% in US Dollar (USD) terms, underperforming MSCI World and MSCI Emerging Markets (EM). Currencies across AxJ generally weakened against the dollar following the Federal Reserve's (Fed’s) decision to hike rates. Meanwhile, Gold declined 2.2% while oil jumped 8.66% month-on-month.
USTs weakened further in December, as caution prevailed following the November sell-off. As widely expected, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) raised interest rates by 25 basis points (bps). 10-year UST yields ended the month at 2.44%, about 6 basis points (bps) higher compared to end-November levels.
We are currently in a position where we are facing more questions than answers regarding Trump's policy stance as he comes into office and how it will affect the market.
Global Equity - Asia ex-Japan Equity - Japan equity
This PDF is a compilation of 2017 market outlook reports by three of our equity teams.
We believe that in an increasingly uncertain world, Japan’s less uncertain market will provide a compelling opportunity for serious investors.
The phrase “lower for longer” could well become unfashionable very quickly after years of central banks combating the forces of deflation and wishing for inflation instead.