Best In Class  

Best in Class: Aberdeen Emerging Markets Bond

Best in Class: Aberdeen Emerging Markets Bond

The past couple of years have been profitable ones for UK holders of emerging market debt. 

With global growth picking up, inflation low and balance sheets much improved, the environment has been positive and the yields on offer extremely attractive to those looking to boost their income. 

However, rising US yields and a dollar renaissance have both taken their toll on the asset class in recent weeks.

The worry is whether bond issuers can manage their dollar-denominated debts. 

My personal view is that emerging market economies, on aggregate, are in a far better position than they were five years ago to deal with increased funding costs as a result of US monetary policy.

This is not taper tantrum number two. But, as with any other region that encompasses as many different economies, some are doing better than others. 

A case in point is Argentina.

Recent policy mistakes from its central banks must have had former US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and Bank of England governor Mark Carney wincing and thanking the heavens it wasn't them.

A rise in the inflation rate target and cut in interest rates earlier this year dented the Bank of Argentina's credibility, and the rise in the US dollar, which put pressure on the peso, tipped the scales firmly against them.

A few emergency hikes later and inflation is above 20 per cent and interest rates are an eye-watering 40 per cent.

It's at times like this you need a cool head (or heads) and the team behind the Aberdeen Emerging Markets Bond fund have this collectively.

Aberdeen has a huge footprint in emerging markets investing, but is probably most well-known for its equity franchise.

In fact, it has a successful, well-resourced and experienced team of specialists focused entirely on researching and investing in emerging debt markets. The current yield of this fund is 6 per cent.

The team does not believe that we are seeing a repeat of 2013.

They point out that emerging market corporate debt defaults are primarily driven by commodity prices, financial mismanagement and business-model failure, rather than by foreign-exchange mismatches.

In the past three years, just one of the 82 issuer defaults in the asset class was caused by foreign-exchange factors.

In addition, some countries have pegged or managed currencies. Some, like Thailand, run current-account surpluses.

Also, stringent local regulations in certain countries require assets and liabilities to be matched.

When investing in the debt of emerging market countries and companies, Aberdeen follows a highly disciplined investment process.

The team conduct their own scenario analysis, forecasting what they could expect to make from investing in a particular country, while at the same time considering the downside return risks.