Level of debt worries bond investors; majority expects higher risk premiums

Level of debt worries bond investors; majority expects higher risk premiumsBond investors see high debt levels as the greatest concern for the global economy. More than three-quarters of respondents consider high government debt as a possible trigger of a new recession or market crisis.

This is one of the conclusions of the second Global Fixed Income Study by asset manager Invesco, based on interviews with 145 bond specialists and CIOs in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), North America and Asia. Together the respondents account for assets under management of $ 14.1 trillion.

A possible new crisis in emerging markets, the Chinese debt position and the high debt of companies and consumers were also often mentioned as the likely cause of a recession or market correction. Rising interest rates will have a significant impact on financing costs and the number of defaults. A majority (60%) of bond investors expect rising risk premiums over the next three years.

The risk of central banks raising interest rates too quickly is estimated as being much lower: less than one in three fear this scenario. Geopolitical tensions, a housing market crisis or the break-up of the eurozone are also low on the list of concerns of fixed-interest investors. A minority (27%) expects a reverse yield curve within three years; almost half (45%) foresee contrast the persistence of a flat yield curve. One in three (34%) is concerned about rising inflation.

Invesco also asked investors whether they expect a market correction. 44% of the respondents think we are heading for a ’significant’ correction, 28% disagree. More than one in three (37%) anticipates a crash on the stock markets within twelve months, 34% consider a crash on the bond markets as the largest tail risk.

American investors are significantly more pessimistic: nearly six out of ten expect a significant market correction, 56% are worried about inflation and almost half (48%) are concerned that central banks are raising interest rates too quickly. More than half of the US respondents also expect that the current economic expansion will end within a year – European investors by contrast see the phase of economic expansion continuing for another one to two years.

Nick Tolchard, Head of Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) for Invesco Fixed Income commented

“The U.S. political situation has likely contributed to the pessimistic outlook of North American fixed-income investors. Elevated rhetoric from the Trump administration regarding trade with China, Europe, Canada, and Mexico, plus the introduction of tariffs, have had a significant impact on optimism. From a political and market perspective, perceptions that the Fed has remained determined not to provide further policy support, and speculation about the potential for the yield curve to invert, have added to concerns.”

Invesco also asked the bond investors for their view on China, whose importance in international bond indices is on the rise. In Europe, 40% of respondents have exposure to the country, while in North America it is even lower. Western investors are well behind those in Asia, where nearly 70% of fixed-income investors are invested in China. In the EMEA region, one in ten investors wants to increase the weight of Chinese bonds over the next three years. This figure is in stark contrast to North America, where nearly 60% of the respondents want to invest more in Chinese bonds.

The planned expansion aside, China’s weight in the average bond portfolio is still low: an average of 5% for an institutional portfolio. Investors see different obstacles and are particularly afraid of higher risks and government intervention (such as capital restrictions). Nevertheless, nearly two out of three respondents are of the opinion that China is currently underrepresented in international bond portfolios.

Invesco’s Global Fixed Income Study also focuses extensively on LDI (liability-driven investing) and sustainable investing.

Varför oroa sig för den mexikanska börsen?

IShares MSCI Mexico Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWW) har stigit med 5,12 procent, year-to-date. Det är emellertid långt från den utveckling som vi sett hos MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Nya bekymmer om Mexikos tappade grepp om sin kreditvärdighet i investment grade kan väga på EWW och andra mexikanska tillgångar. Det kommer även påverka andra börshandlade fonder med fokus på Mexiko.

EWW syftar till att spåra investeringsresultatet för MSCI Mexico IMI 25/50 Index, vilket är ett fritt fluktuerat marknadsvärderingsvägd index med en capping-metod som tillämpas på emittentens vikter så att ingen enskild emittent av en komponent överstiger 25% av underliggande indexvikt och alla emittenter med en vikt över 5% överstiger inte kumulativt 50% av den underliggande indexvikten.

Förra veckan upprepade ratingcentralen Standard & Poor’s (S & P) ett BBB + kreditbetyg på Mexiko, men den här gången med negativ utsikt.

”Den mexikanska regeringen står inför en chans på tre att få se sitt kreditbetyg nedgraderat under det närmaste året. Detta eftersom de offentliga finanserna kämpar med ökande skulder och minskad tillväxten, konstaterade ratingbyrån Standard & Poors”, rapporterar Reuters.

AMLO Bekymmer

Valet av Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) som Mexikos president var ursprungligen uppskattad av marknader. Emellertid har investerare nyligen uttryckt missnöje över den nya presidentens politik. AMLO ser ut att minska den privata sektorns inverkan på Mexiko statliga oljegiganten Pemex, som vissa marknadsobservatörer tror är oroande.

”I ett uttalande betonade S & P att Lopez Obradors planer på att minska den privata sektorns roll i den mexikanska energisektorn, samtidigt som det ökar utgifterna för det penningpolitiska nationella oljebolaget Pemex, vilket skapar bekymmer för statsfinanserna”, enligt Reuters.

Obradors föreslagna rörelser inkluderar ett tryck för att begränsa de avgifter som bankerna kan debitera kunder samt ett beslut att avsluta ett flygplatsprojekt på 13 miljarder dollar i Mexico City som redan har finansierats via utländska obligationer. Investerare har länge varit försiktiga med AMLOs värme, eller brist på det, om fri marknadspolitik.

Den mexikanska regeringen förlitar sig på Pemex för cirka 15 procent av de totala skatteintäkterna medan företaget kämpar med nästan 106 miljarder dollar i skuld, det högsta av något nationellt oljebolag i Latinamerika,” rapporterar Reuters.

IShares MSCI Mexico Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWW)

El Niño: the impact on agricultural commodities

El Niño refers to a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on weather patterns. The name, which loosely translates to ‘Christ child’, traces its origin back to Peruvian fisherman in the 1600s, who observed that fish yields would often decline around Christmas time as sea water temperatures rose. The effects of El Niño include specific wind patterns across the Pacific Ocean, heavy rain in South America, and droughts in Australia and parts of Asia including India and Indonesia.

With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasting a 96% probability of an El Niño weather event during the current Northern Hemisphere winter, there is a strong chance that we could see some weather abnormalities in the coming months.

Figure 1. The probability of El Niño occurring this year

Why El Niño matters for agricultural commodity prices

El Niño can have a significant impact on the fortunes of the agricultural industry, as the growing of agricultural products is highly sensitive to weather patterns. The right amount of sun and rain at the right time is important to produce the optimal yield. For example, droughts can ruin a crop because of insufficient water, while floods can wash away plants, or delay the process of harvesting a good crop from the ground, causing it to spoil.

While El Niño can have a considerable effect on agricultural commodity prices, the specific impact on the price of any individual commodity will depend on the El Niño’s amplitude and timing, as well as locational factors such as where the crop is grown and how prepared the farmers are for extreme conditions.

Figure 2. Weather impact of El Niño

Source: NOAA

Analysing the impact on agricultural commodity prices

When assessing likely El Niño effects, the first step is to consider the time of the year that El Niño is likely to begin. In this case, the NOAA believes that the event is likely to arrive in the Northern Hemisphere winter this year, but there is a good chance that it could linger into the Northern Hemisphere summer with a lower intensity. The next step is to assess which part of the crop cycle it will affect. According to research by Iizumi et al., a weather disturbance during the ‘reproductive’ growth period of the crop cycle tends to have the largest impact on crop yields.

Using insights from Iizumi et al. we have assessed the possible near-term impact from an El Niño on crops that are in the reproductive phase of growth. We summarise our key thoughts below:

Bullish on sugar, cocoa, and wheat

Agricultural commodities that we are bullish on in the event of an El Niño include sugar, cocoa, and wheat.

Sugar production is highly concentrated in India and certain regions of Brazil. If El Niño occurs, it’s likely that both countries could see below-average rainfall and drier conditions, and this could drive prices higher.

Indonesia, which produces 10% of global cocoa supply, could also be directly affected by an El Niño, and dry warm weather in Indonesia could potentially drive cocoa prices higher.

Australia, which produces 4% of global wheat supply, is another country that could face dry weather if El Niño emerges. This could have a positive impact on wheat prices, although much of the wheat harvest is expected to be completed by mid-January, which should limit the impact of an El Niño.

Bearish on soybean, corn and Arabica coffee

In contrast, we are bearish on soybean, corn, and Arabica coffee.

Brazil and Argentina, who together are responsible for almost half of the world’s soybean supply, are likely to experience favourable growing conditions in the event of an El Niño. As such, an El Niño could prove to be price negative for soybean prices.

Figure 3. The effect of El Niño on soybean growing during the December to March reproductive growth phase

Source: Adapted by WisdomTree from “Impacts of Southern Oscillation on the global yields of major crops” by Iizumi et al, May 2014

Forecasts are not an indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.

The effects of El Niño on corn are less significant, but could be mildly positive for growing conditions in South America and parts of Australia, and hence slightly price bearish.

Arabica coffee production is highly concentrated in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Central America. These countries could experience favourable growing conditions, and given that most of the coffee in these regions will be in a reproductive growth phase in the months ahead, we could see a positive supply shock to the commodity, which would be bearish for prices.

Other factors

We caution that the analysis above is based on the pure effect of an El Niño event and does not consider the many other factors that can impact crop yields. We’ll also point out that agricultural commodity prices can be affected by a number of other developments such as exchange-rate movements and trade policies. However, the analysis is useful as a rough guide as to how commodity prices could potentially be affected if we do experience an El Niño event in the near term.


The content on this document is issued by WisdomTree UK Ltd (“WTUK”), which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). Our Conflicts of Interest Policy and Inventory are available on request.

Mexico Trade Surplus Triggers Unease

Mexico’s large trade surplus may be a sign of weakening domestic demand. The current account improvements in Brazil need extra support from fiscal adjustment and structural reform.

There was a sense of unease in Mexico this morning despite the fact that the country posted a very large trade surplus in December (USD1.836B vs. expected deficit of USD0.9B). The reason is that the unexpected improvement was due to weaker imports – both petroleum and non-oil (see chart below). The latter may be interpreted as a sign of weakening domestic demand, which means extra headache for the central bank and an extra reason for the market to start pricing in at least one policy rate cut (37bps) on a one-year horizon.

Soft domestic demand and a large output gap are the main reasons why Brazil continues to run very small current account deficits (USD815M in December, and estimated 0.8% of gross domestic product in 2018). Meanwhile, foreign direct investments (FDI)1 remain large (USD8.95B in December), which translates into big positive basic balances (a sum of current account2 and FDI) and solid fundamental support for the currency. A major policy challenge for Brazil is to make sure that external balance improvements reflect more than just cyclical changes. Structural shifts (such as pension reform and fiscal adjustment) would make such improvements more sustainable and longer-lasting.

The Turkish lira is under pressure again this morning (113bps weaker against U.S. dollar as of 10 a.m. ET, according to Bloomberg LP). The market is readying for the release of the central bank’s quarterly inflation report on Wednesday, which will be followed by January’s inflation print next Monday. The consensus believes that the central bank will lower its inflation forecasts, which underpins the market expectations of substantial policy easing (975bps) in the next 12 months.

Chart at a Glance

Source: VanEck; Bloomberg LP

1 Foreign direct investment (FDI) is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country.

2 Current account is a record of a country’s transactions with the rest of the world, based on its net trade in goods and services, net earnings on cross-border investments, and net transfer payments.


PMI – Purchasing Managers’ Index: economic indicators derived from monthly surveys of private sector companies; ISM – Institute for Supply Management PMI: ISM releases an index based on more than 400 purchasing and supply managers surveys; both in the manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries; CPI – Consumer Price Index: an index of the variation in prices paid by typical consumers for retail goods and other items; PPI – Producer Price Index: a family of indexes that measures the average change in selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services over time; PCE inflation – Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index: one measure of U.S. inflation, tracking the change in prices of goods and services purchased by consumers throughout the economy; MSCI – Morgan Stanley Capital International: an American provider of equity, fixed income, hedge fund stock market indexes, and equity portfolio analysis tools; VIX – CBOE Volatility Index: an index created by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), which shows the market’s expectation of 30-day volatility. It is constructed using the implied volatilities on S&P 500 index options.; GBI-EM – JP Morgan’s Government Bond Index – Emerging Markets: comprehensive emerging market debt benchmarks that track local currency bonds issued by Emerging market governments.; EMBI – JP Morgan’s Emerging Market Bond Index: JP Morgan’s index of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds issued by a selection of emerging market countries; EMBIG – JP Morgan’s Emerging Market Bond Index Global: tracks total returns for traded external debt instruments in emerging markets.

The information presented does not involve the rendering of personalized investment, financial, legal, or tax advice. This 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. Certain information may be 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 the date of this communication and are subject to change.

Investing in international markets carries risks such as currency fluctuation, regulatory risks, 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.

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest. As with any investment strategy, there is no guarantee that investment objectives will be met and investors may lose money. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

Gold outlook 2019: recovery expected to continue

Gold staged a recovery late in 2018. The yellow metal has recovered most of its losses since June 2018. A collapse in speculative positioning in gold futures drove prices down in the second half of the year, sentiment toward gold is clearly recovering in recent weeks. We expect the recovery to continue as many risks that were being ignored by the market start to get priced-in to gold. Our base case scenario is for gold to reach close to US$1370/oz by year end.

Figure 1: Gold price forecast

Source: WisdomTree Model Forecasts, Bloomberg Historical Data, data available as of close 31 December 2018. Forecasts are not an indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.


Using the framework we outlined in our paper Gold outlook: gold to flatline out to June 2019 in the absence of shocks, we apply our views on inflation, exchange rates, interest rates and investor sentiment to try to project where gold will be by the end of the year.

Speculative positioning drives recovery

In 2018 speculative positioning fell to the lowest level since 2001 briefly before recovering very late in the year. Judging by flows into gold Exchange Traded Products, sentiment toward the metal is clearly recovering. Asset market volatility in the final weeks of the year was one of the main catalysts behind the recovery in gold positioning. The S&P 500 lost 14% and Brent oil fell by 35% in the final quarter of 2018. Moreover, the volatility of both benchmarks has risen substantially.

A government shutdown in the US acted as a jolt to investors to remind them that the world’s engine of growth (at least in recent times) is not invincible. Meanwhile concerns around China’s slowing growth rate also led investors to become less optimistic about cyclical assets.

Fed to continue to tighten policy

We expect the Federal Reserve (Fed) to raise rates twice in 2019 (50 basis points), in line with the dot-plots in the central bank’s recent economic forecasts . That’s also in line with consensus forecasts by economists, however, Fed fund futures are not pricing in any rate increases for 2019. We side with the Fed’s guidance as we believe that economic data from the country is strong enough and labour markets are tight enough for the central bank to continue to raise rates. However, we acknowledge the risk to rates is on the downside – which in general should play to the upside for gold prices.

US Treasury bond yield curve to invert

Although we expect a total of 50 basis points increase in policy rates by Q4 2019, we think that 10-year bond yields will only increase around 25 basis points to 3.0% in that time horizon. 2-year bond yields are likely to capture more of the gains in policy rates, but further out in the curve, we are likely to see less yield increases. That’s because the Fed’s holding of a large stock of bonds is likely to hold yields back from rising too aggressively. Also, recent tax cuts are likely to have the most impact in the very short term.

As the growth impact peters out over longer horizons, the uplift to yields at the longer end of the curve will be less than at the short end. Although many people see yield curve inversion as a financial signal of impending economic downturn, we believe that an inversion can occur for the less benign reasons outlined above and so it is not necessarily a precursor to an economic recession. If anything, we believe the Fed will err on the side of dovishness, as it will be reluctant to drive policy too far from other central banks. In fact, Fed fund futures indicate that the market thinks that the Fed will stop raising rates altogether this year. That could prove to be supportive for gold prices over the course of 2019.

Figure 2: Nominal US 10 year Bond Yields forecast

Source: WisdomTree Model Forecasts, Bloomberg Historical Data, data available as of close 31 December 2018. Forecasts are not an

indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.

US Dollar appreciation to be short-lived

While the Fed remains the only major central bank raising interest rates over in the first half of the year, we expect the US Dollar to continue to appreciate, especially as judging by Fed fund futures, the market is currently not expecting further tightening. However, as other major central banks – the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, Bank of England for example start to think about policy normalisation, we could see interest rate differentials narrow and the US Dollar weaken. Additionally, with growing indebtedness in the US – exacerbated by recent tax cuts – we expect a depreciation in the US Dollar.

Figure 3: US Dollar Exchange Rate Forecast

Source: WisdomTree Model Forecasts, Bloomberg Historical Data, data available as of close 31 December 2018. Forecasts are not an indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.

Inflationary pressures to persist, but remain contained by Fed’s policy

US consumer price index (CPI) inflation peaked at 2.9% in July 2018 and declined to 2.2% in November 2018. Volatile energy prices were responsible for a large part of the rise and decline. We expect the Fed’s policy tightening to continue to keep demand-driven inflation in check, but a recovery in oil prices will likely place upward pressure on inflation at the headline level. We expect a small increase in inflation to 2.3% by year-end.

Figure 4: Consumer Price Index inflation forecast

Source: WisdomTree Model Forecasts, Bloomberg Historical Data, data available as of close 31 December 2018. Forecasts are not an indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.

What will help sentiment toward gold improve?

Summarising the monetary/economic drivers of gold – small increases in interest rates, minor appreciation followed by depreciation of the US Dollar and inflation moving marginally higher – are not going to move the dial for gold in a big way. We believe that that gold prices will end the forecast period higher mainly as a result of sentiment towards gold continuing to move out of a depressed state. This process had started already in the final week of 2018 as most markets displayed excessive volatility.

We have had multiple bouts of equity market volatility in 2018, but for most part developed world equities have snapped back. That does not guarantee resilience in the face of the next shock. We note that the last time speculative positioning in gold hit levels as low as they did in 2018 was in 2001 – the year when an Argentine debt crisis was brewing, and an overvalued technology sector was imploding. Gold reacted to the stress scenario but with latency. Gold prices rose 25% in 2002 (compared to 2% in 2001) .

There are other risks, that could be supportive for gold as historically a safe haven asset, which could drive positioning in gold futures higher:

No deal Brexit– The UK’s prime minister appears to have insufficient support for the terms of withdrawal from the EU that she has been responsible for negotiating. Although she survived a vote of no confidence from her own party, it clear that the proposal is detested by leave and remain MPs alike. Renegotiating the terms of withdrawal appear impossible at this stage and so it is difficult to see how either side will be appeased by the current deal.

We believe the most likely outcome will be for some form of extension beyond the March 30th deadline, however, there is a risk that doesn’t happen and there would be` no withdrawal deal in place. Leaving the EU in such an uncertain manner is likely to be very disruptive for both the UK and EU. Even if there is an extension to the deadline, uncertainty will linger, which will support demand for haven assets.

Trade-wars – Our working assumption is that rising protectionism in the US is not going to damage global economic demand. In fact, there are signs that the rift between the US and China is beginning to thaw. However, we have seen similar signs before which have been followed by a deterioration of the relationship. If tit-for-tat protectionist measures escalate, the market could be driven into a risk-off mindset.

The US government is currently shut down as President Trump vies congress to fund his border wall with Mexico. The risk of the standoff becoming prolonged could support demand for haven assets. Indeed, even if the government reopens soon, the risk of the Trump administration continuously using the threat of shutdowns as a strategy to gain leverage over congress is likely to hurt investor confidence in cyclical assets.

In our forecast, we bring back speculative positioning in gold futures to levels consistent with what we have seen in the past five years.

Figure 5: Gold futures speculative positioning

Source: WisdomTree Model Forecasts, Bloomberg Historical Data, data available as of close 31 December 2018. Forecasts are not an indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.

Combining the monetary, economic and sentiment driven factors affecting gold, we believe gold will reach close to US$1370/oz by the end of this year.

Alternative scenarios

We have also developed alternative scenarios for gold as summarised below. Most of the sensitivity comes from our measure of sentiment, speculative positioning. But even in our bear case, we increase positioning into positive territory. In our bull case scenario, we assume the Fed will allow the economy to run hot, only raising rates once, which will put less pressure on bond yields to rise, aid US Dollar depreciation and keep inflation elevated at 2.9%. In the bear case, conversely, we assume the Fed acts more hawkishly and has more impact on the longer bond yields. The US Dollar appreciates as the Fed surprises the market with its hawkishness.

Source: WisdomTree Model Forecasts, Bloomberg Historical Data, data available as of close 31 December 2018. Forecasts are not an indicator of future performance and any investments are subject to risks and uncertainties.


In our base case scenario, we expect gold prices to rise close to US$1370/oz by Q4 2019, mainly as a result of speculative positioning in the futures market being restored. Some US Dollar depreciation and small gains in inflation will also aid gold’s rise.


The content on this document is issued by WisdomTree UK Ltd (“WTUK”), which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). Our Conflicts of Interest Policy and Inventory are available on request.