Against a backdrop of a more stable bond market, we prefer relatively higher-yielding Philippine, India and Indonesian government bonds. In addition, there appears to be early signs suggesting that inflationary pressures in these countries have likely peaked, which we see providing further support for these bonds. As for currencies, we expect the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah to outperform regional peers.
In a world starved of workers and growth, we believe that Asia’s ability to supply both puts the region on a very firm footing over the longer term. Once we get through this current US-led rate tightening cycle and the flush out of weaker financial institutions in the West, we see a bright future for Asia, which is now trading at extremely attractive valuations.
This month we discuss how potential market volatility still bears watching even if the global banking turmoil may not directly shake Japan; we also assess how a steady domestic demand recovery may be in sight even if the public is slow to remove their masks after the recent easing of restrictions.
Asia’s consumption trends were once thought to be heavily influenced by those in the West, but that is no longer the case. Asian consumers have diverse tastes and influences and they are starting to dictate global trends instead of merely absorbing them. We believe that Asian brands are well placed to respond to this new paradigm.
Asian local currency bonds are expected to thrive as the region’s central banks end their rate hike cycle on the back of easing inflation. We believe that strong fundamentals, high-quality yields and limited foreign ownership are other factors that are supportive of this fixed income asset class.
Investors have been dealing with elevated volatility in asset prices since the pandemic began. A contributing factor that continues to muddy the waters has been the volatility in economic data due to COVID-led distortions. In more recent months, particularly in the US, unseasonal weather patterns have made reading the economic tea leaves even more difficult.
It could be some time before the market stabilises in the wake of the global banking turmoil, and investor appetite toward financial subordinated debt will likely be weak in the near term. That said, considering the current valuations of fundamentally stronger Asian banks, we believe that a large part of such concerns are already reflected in their spreads/price following the re-pricing which took place earlier in March.
We expect fairly rough sailing for the global economy, financial system and markets in the next two quarters, but we do not expect disasters and there should be major relief for stocks later in 2023 as central banks begin to ease policy.
Asian banks will be more insulated from the current global banking turmoil, in our view, thanks to smaller-scale rate hikes in Asia, prudent supervision by regional financial regulators, outsized capital adequacy ratios and sensible security exposure relative to total assets. We believe this will bode well for the sector in the longer term and enhance its attractiveness.
Bonds have been attracting more attention from investors recently in view of their higher yields and the possibility of capital gains. In addition, as equities have lost their shine for now amid higher interest rates, bonds are expected to continue to benefit from an asset allocation perspective.