An interesting disconnect has taken shape between local currency- and hard currency-denominated bonds in emerging markets with respect to their portfolio flows and prices since the start of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging market assets have recovered sharply from the COVID-19 sell-off in 2020, but the post-pandemic recovery in 2021 has been highly uneven. This note seeks to answer why. Yields of local currency-denominated bonds have risen faster and are approaching their pandemic highs, while hard currency bond yields are still near their post-pandemic lows. Portfolio flows to local currency debt have similarly lagged flows to hard currency bonds. This disconnect is closely linked to the external environment and fiscal and inflationary pressures. Its evolution remains a key consideration for policymakers and investors, since local markets are the main source of funding for emerging markets. This note draws from the methodology developed in earlier Global Financial Stability Reports on fundamentals-based asset valuation models for funding costs and forecasting models for capital flows (using the at-risk framework). The results are consistent across models, indicating that local currency assets are significantly more sensitive to domestic fundamentals while hard currency assets are dependent on the external risk sentiment to a greater extent. This suggests that the post-pandemic, stressed domestic fundamentals have weighed on local currency bonds, partially offsetting the boost from supportive global risk sentiment. The analysis also highlights the risks emerging markets face from an asynchronous recovery and weak domestic fundamentals.
Unconstrained multi-sector bond funds (MSBFs) can be a source of spillovers to emerging markets and potentially exert a sizable impact on cross-border flows. MSBFs have grown their investment in emerging markets in recent years and are highly concentrated—both in their positions and their decision-making. They typically also exhibit opportunistic behavior much more so than other investment funds. Theoretically, their size, multisector mandate, and unconstrained nature allows MSBFs to be a source of financial stability in periods of wide-spread market turmoil while others sell at fire-sale prices. However, this note, building on the analysis of Cortes and Sanfilippo (2020) and incorporating data around the COVID-19 crisis, finds that MSBFs could have contributed to increase market stress in selected emerging markets. When faced with large investor redemptions during the crisis, our sample of MSBFs chose to rebalance their portfolios in a concentrated manner, raising a large proportion of cash in a few specific local currency bond markets. This may have contributed to exacerbating the relative underperformance of these local currency bond markets to broader emerging market indices.
The nominal bond yields for advanced economies rose sharply during the first quarter of the year. This note analyzes the drivers of this increase across the jurisdictions and tenors of the yield curve. A key investor focus, in particular, has been the rise in the nominal bond yields in the United States, which has had notable global financial stability spillovers. The analysis indicates that the rise in inflation expectations is the primary driver of the rise in US nominal bond yields over the near term, whereas, the rise in real yields has been the major contributor to the rise in longer-term yields. The change in term premiums has also played a key role in driving both the longer-term inflation breakeven and real yields. Considering other major advanced economies, while inflation expectations have risen across the board in the near term, change in real yields appear more pertinent a driver for shifts in longer-term yields.
This note analyzes the stress experienced (and caused) by open-end mutual funds during the March COVID-19 stress episode, with a focus on global fixed-income funds. In light of increased valuation uncertainty, funds experienced a short period of intense withdrawals while the market liquidity of their holdings deteriorated substantially. To cover redemptions, afflicted funds predominantly shed liquid assets first—for example, cash, cash equivalents, and US Treasury securities. But forced asset sales amplified price pressures in markets and contributed to liquidity falling across fixed-income markets. This drop in market liquidity, as well as the general stress in financial markets, may have led to fund investors becoming even more sensitive to challenging portfolio performance and encouraged further withdrawals. Only after central banks intervened, directly and indirectly supporting asset managers, did liquidity and redemption stress subside. Overall, the March episode validated the financial-stability concerns about liquidity vulnerabilities in the fund industry and calls for further action to address them.