Emerging-market debt (EMD) has rebounded sharply off March lows as investor fears of a pandemic-driven rout have subsided. But even with volatility possibly picking up over the near term—largely the result of uncertainty around US elections—we see significant opportunities ahead.
Below are four important guideposts for investors in today’s EMD markets.
1. Emerging markets (EM) are resilient. The COVID-19 experience for EM countries has been similar to that of developed markets—some countries have fared well, some have not. Even EM countries like headline-grabbing Brazil and India have thus far stabilized COVID-19 cases and bent the curve.
In general, EM governments have curtailed shutdowns to retain revenue and limited the size of fiscal stimulus to prevent erosion of credit quality. As a result, concerns about systemic defaults triggered by the pandemic haven’t been realized. Recent defaults by Argentina, Ecuador, and Lebanon were anticipated well before 2020.
We expect this kind of broad resiliency to persist. And as more information is known about potential vaccines, improved treatments and even better testing capacity, global growth should get a boost—a positive for EM assets.
2. US elections matter. From rising tensions between the US and China to infrastructure and energy policies, the outcome of this US election may matter more than usual for risk assets. EMD is no exception.
For example, we believe EM countries would benefit from conventional diplomacy and more predictable trade negotiations with China, which are more probable under a Biden administration. Lower headline risk would make a more conducive environment for EMD assets. Fiscal stimulus and increased spending on US infrastructure—highly likely if Democrats win the White House and sweep Congress—would also be a tailwind to EM countries and companies, which supply the needed raw commodities.
A new administration might also have different views about the role of the International Monetary Fund in the global economy. This might result in either additional or reallocated Special Drawing Rights, which could increase funding sources for EM countries.