Quarterly Update

Apr. 2019

Thomas H. Ehrlein, Director, Portfolio and Alternative Analytics Group | Apr. 2019

Emerging Market Corporate Credit: An Overlooked Opportunity

Decline in EM bond prices creates opportunity

Strong fundamentals outweigh uncertainties

EM bond yields attractive relative to U.S. peers

Investors faced a number of challenges in 2018, with volatility extending across stocks and bonds in various markets. One area of potential opportunity following that volatility is emerging market corporate credit—debt issued by companies in developing economies.

Emerging market bond prices fell dramatically last year, increasing their yields, on uncertainties that included concerns about global economic growth, trade disputes, central bank tightening, and negative developments and currency crises in several emerging markets, such as Argentina and Turkey. We saw this as creating an opportunity, because we believed the underlying fundamentals were strong. The Fed’s recent decision to pause its tightening policies, as well as technical imbalances that help ease the debt burden on foreign borrowers, also bode well for emerging markets.

As the chart shows, emerging market corporate high yield bonds began 2018 with yields similar to U.S. high yield bonds, but emerging market bonds now trade with significantly higher yields, despite a slight recovery in the first quarter of 2019.

While emerging market corporate high yield bonds offer higher yields relative to their U.S. counterparts, the underlying fundamentals of emerging markets remain strong, particularly over the longer term. As the chart shows, emerging market economies tend to be significantly less indebted than developed market economies, and emerging markets are also growing faster.

Defaults in emerging market high yield continue to be low — lower than U.S. high yield issuers. We believe this is mostly because corporations located in EM regions are judged based on geography rather than fundamentals. This is known as the “sovereign ceiling,” where EM corporate issuers are not usually rated better than their corresponding government bonds.

We see an opportunity to take advantage of price and yield developments in the market and capitalize on the relatively high yields in emerging market corporate debt. Emerging markets offer favorable fundamentals and a more robust growth outlook relative to developed markets, and the current yields present an attractive entry point in this context.

Key Points

Decline in EM bond prices creates opportunity

Strong fundamentals outweigh uncertainties

EM bond yields attractive relative to U.S. peers

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Important Disclosures

The information presented does not involve the rendering of personalized investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. This presentation is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any of the securities mentioned herein.

Certain statements contained herein may constitute projections, forecasts, and other forward-looking statements, which do not reflect actual results and are based primarily upon a hypothetical set of assumptions applied to certain historical financial information. Certain information has been provided by third-party sources, and, although believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified, and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed.

Any opinions, projections, forecasts, and forward-looking statements presented herein are valid as of the date of this document and are subject to change.

There are inherent risks with equity investing. These risks include, but are not limited to, stock market, manager, or investment style. Stock markets tend to move in cycles, with periods of rising prices and periods of falling prices. Investing in international markets carries risks such as currency fluctuation, regulatory risks, and economic and political instability. Emerging markets involve heightened risks related to the same factors, as well as increased volatility, lower trading volume, and less liquidity. Emerging markets can have greater custodial and operational risks and less developed legal and accounting systems than developed markets.

Concentrating assets in the real estate sector or REITs may disproportionately subject a portfolio to the risks of that industry, including the loss of value because of adverse developments affecting the real estate industry and real property values. Investments in REITs may be subject to increased price volatility and liquidity risk; concentration risk is high.

Investments in Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) are susceptible to concentration risk, illiquidity, exposure to potential volatility, tax reporting complexity, fiscal policy, and market risk. Investors in MLPs are subject to increased tax reporting requirements. MLP investors typically receive a complicated schedule K-1 form rather than Form 1099. MLPs may not be appropriate investments for tax-advantaged accounts because of potential negative tax consequences (Unrelated Business Income Tax).

There are inherent risks with fixed-income investing. These risks may include interest rate, call, credit, market, inflation, government policy, liquidity, or junk bond. When interest rates rise, bond prices fall. This risk is heightened with investments in longer-duration fixed-income securities and during periods when prevailing interest rates are low or negative. The yields and market values of municipal securities may be more affected by changes in tax rates and policies than similar income-bearing taxable securities. Certain investors’ incomes may be subject to the Federal Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), and taxable gains are also possible. Investments in below-investment-grade debt securities, which are usually called “high yield” or “junk bonds,” are typically in weaker financial health and such securities can be harder to value and sell, and their prices can be more volatile than more highly rated securities. While these securities generally have higher rates of interest, they also involve greater risk of default than do securities of a higher-quality rating.

Investments in emerging market bonds may be substantially more volatile, and substantially less liquid, than the bonds of governments, government agencies, and government-owned corporations located in more developed foreign markets. Emerging market bonds can have greater custodial and operational risks and less developed legal and accounting systems than developed markets.

As with any investment strategy, there is no guarantee that investment objectives will be met, and investors may lose money. Returns include the reinvestment of interest and dividends. Investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. Diversification may not protect against market loss or risk. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.



Index Definitions

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) is a market capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stocks chosen for market size, liquidity, and industry group representation to represent U.S. equity performance.

MSCI Emerging Markets Asia Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity market performance in the Asian emerging markets.

The MSCI EAFE Index (Europe, Australasia, Far East) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets, excluding the U.S. & Canada. As of June 2007, the MSCI EAFE Index consisted of the following 21 developed market country indices: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The MSCI Europe Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure developed market equity performance in Europe. As of September 2002, the MSCI Europe Index consisted of the following 16 developed market country indices: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The Dow Jones Select Dividend Index seeks to represent the top 100 U.S. stocks by dividend yield. The index is derived from the Dow Jones U.S. Index and generally consists of 100 dividend-paying stocks that have five-year non-negative Dividend Growth, five-year Dividend Payout Ratio of 60% or less, and three-month average daily trading volume of at least 200,000 shares.

The Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is composed of U.S. government, mortgage-backed, asset-backed, and corporate fixed income securities with maturities of one year or more.

The Barclays High Yield Municipal Index covers the high yield portion of the U.S.-dollar-denominated long-term tax-exempt bond market. The index has four main sectors: state and local general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, insured bonds, and pre-refunded bonds.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield Index is an unmanaged, U.S.-dollar-denominated, nonconvertible, non-investment-grade debt index. The index consists of domestic and corporate bonds rated Ba and below with a minimum outstanding amount of $150 million.

S&P Leveraged Loan Indexes (S&P LL indexes) are capitalization-weighted syndicated loan indexes based upon market weightings, spreads, and interest payments. The S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan 100 Index (LL100) dates back to 2002 and is a daily tradable index for the U.S. market that seeks to mirror the market-weighted performance of the largest institutional leveraged loans, as determined by criteria. Its ticker on Bloomberg is SPBDLLB.

The Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index, formerly known as Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index Total Return (DJUBSTR), is composed of futures contracts and reflects the returns on a fully collateralized investment in the BCOM. This combines the returns of the BCOM with the returns on cash collateral invested in 13-week (three-month) U.S. Treasury Bills.

Indices are unmanaged, and one cannot invest directly in an index. Index returns do not reflect a deduction for fees or expenses.

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