Saturday 30th April 2016
NEWS TICKER: Central bank policy is still dominating the trading agenda, even though most analysts believe that the Fed will, if it does move, move only once this year and will raise rates by a quarter of a percent. The statement of the US FOMC was terse and most likely signals extreme caution on its part, though there is a belief that hawkish voices are rising in the committee. The reality is though that the US economic growth story is slowing. Many think the June meeting will spark the uplift. Let’s see. The US dollar is continuing to lose ground across the board after data showed the US economy expanded at its slowest pace since the second quarter of 2009, according to the BEA, which FTSE Global Markets reported on last Friday. GDP increased at a 0.5% annualised rate - versus an expected 0.7% - after rising 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015 as personal consumption failed to boost growth in spite of low gasoline prices. Central bank caution makes sense in that context, however timing will be sensitive. If the central bank moves in the autumn it threatens to unbutton the presidential elections; but the reality is that mixed data will emanate from the US over this quarter which will make a June decision difficult. It’s tough being an FOMC member right now. The Bank of Japan meanwhile signalled its intention to stay the course this week with current policy, which discombobulated the markets. The Japanese markets were closed today for a public holiday, so it won’t be entirely clear if the market will suffer for the central bank’s decision. Certainly if fell 3.61% yesterday and is down 5% on the week. so the omens aren’t great. Of course, the pattern that is well established of late is that as the market falls, the yen appreciates. The yen was trading at 107.14 against the dollar last time we looked, compared with 108 earlier in the session, having at times touched 111/$1 yesterday (the lowest point for more than 18 months) The month to date has seen a rise in both the short term and long term volatility gauges. Coinciding with the rise, Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrant activity has also significantly picked up. Nikkei 225 Structured Warrants showed increased activity with daily averaged traded value up 33% month-on-month. The Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrants had significant increase in trading activity year-on-year with total turnover up by 6.8 times. – ASIAN TRADING SESSION - Australia's ASX 200 reversed early losses to close up 26.77 points, or 0.51%, at 5,252.20, adding 0.3% for the week. The uptick today was driven by gains in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index, as well as the energy and materials sub-indexes. In South Korea, the Kospi finished down 6.78 points, or 0.34%, at 1,994.15, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.37%. Chinese mainland markets were mixed, with the Shanghai composite dropping 7.13 points, or 0.24 percent, at 2,938.45, while the Shenzhen composite finished nearly flat. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 12.42 points or 0.43% lower to 2862.3, taking the year-to-date performance to -0.71%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.26%, DBS, which declined 1.03%, NOL, which gained closed unchanged, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.00% and CapitaLand, with a 0.63% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.60%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.49%. Structured warrants on Asian Indices have continued to be active in April. YTD, the STI has generated a total return of 1.3%. This compares to a decline of 4.9% for the Nikkei 225 Index and a decline of 6.3% of the Hang Seng Index. Of the structured warrants available on Asian Indices, the Hang Seng Index Structured Warrants have remained the most active in the year to date with Structured Warrants on the Nikkei 225 Index and STI Index the next most active – FUND FLOWS – BAML reports that commodity fund flows went back to positive territory after taking a breather last week, supported again by inflows into gold funds. “The asset class is currently the best performer, with year to date % of AUM inflow at 15%, far ahead of all other asset classes. Global EM debt flows reflected the bullish turn of the market on EMs, recording the tenth consecutive week of positive flows. On the duration front, short-term funds recorded a marginal inflow, keeping a positive sign for the last four weeks. The mid-term IG funds continue to record strong inflows for a ninth week. But it looks like investors have started to embrace duration to reach for yield, as inflows into longer-term funds have recorded a cumulative 0.8% inflow in the past two weeks,” says the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research team – GREEN BONDS - Banco Nacional de Costa Rica is the latest issuer with a $500m bond to finance wind, solar, hydro and wastewater projects. The bond has a coupon of 5.875% and matures on April 25th 2021. Banco Nacional will rely on Costa Rican environmental protection regulations to determine eligible projects. This is the fourth green bond issuance in Latin America, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI). Actually, Costa Rica is one of the global leaders in terms of renewable energy use. In the first quarter of 2016 it sourced 97.14% of its power from renewables. Hydro's share alone was 65.62%. – SOVEREIGN DEBT - After coming to market with a 100 year bond last week, the Kingdom of Belgium (rated Aa3/AA/AA) has opened books on a dual tranche bond; the first maturing in seven years; the second in 50 years, in a deal managed by Barclays, Credit Agricole, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Natixis and Société Générale. Managers have marketed the October 22nd 2023 tranche at 11 basis points (bps) through mid-swaps and the June 22nd 2066 tranche in the high teens over the mid of the 1.75% 2066 French OAT – LONGEVITY REINSURANCE - Prudential Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company (PRIAC) and U.K. insurer Legal & General say they have just completed their third longevity reinsurance transaction together, further evidence that longevity reinsurance continues to be a vehicle for UK insurers seeking relief from pension liabilities exposed to longevity risk. “This latest transaction builds on our relationship with Legal & General and solidifies the platform from which future business can be written,” explains Bill McCloskey, vice president, Longevity Risk Transfer at Prudential Retirement. “It's also a testament to our experience in the reinsurance space and our capacity to support the growth of the U.K. longevity risk transfer market.” Under the terms of the new agreement, PRIAC will issue reinsurance for a portion of Legal & General's bulk annuity business, providing benefit security for thousands of retirees in the UK. PRIAC has completed three reinsurance transactions with Legal & General since October 2014 – VIETNAM - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has affirmed its 'BB-' long-term and 'B' short-term sovereign credit ratings on Vietnam. The outlook is stable. At the same time, we affirmed our 'axBB+/axB' ASEAN regional scale rating on Vietnam. The ratings, says S&P, reflect the country's lower middle-income, rising debt burden, banking sector weakness, and the country's emerging institutional settings that hamper policy responsiveness. Even so, the ratings agency acknowledges these strengths are offset by Vietnam's sound external settings that feature adequate foreign exchange reserves and a modest external debt burden. The country has a lower middle income but comparatively diversified economy. S&P estimates GDP per capita at about US$2,200 in 2016. “Recent improvements in macroeconomic stability have supported strong performance in the sizable foreign-owned and export-focused manufacturing sector (electronics, telephones, and clothing). This strength will likely be offset by weaker domestic activity as the impetus to growth stemming from low household and company sector leverage is hampered by weak banks and government enterprises, and shortfalls in infrastructure. We expect real GDP per capita growth to rise by 5.3% in 2016 (2015: 5.6%) and average 5.2% over 2016-2019, reflecting modest outlooks for Vietnam's trading partners. Uncertain conditions in export markets and the slow pace in addressing government enterprise reforms, fiscal consolidation, and banking sector resolution add downside risks to this growth outlook – RUSSIA - Russia's central bank held interest rates steady at 11% today, in line with expectations, although it hinted that if inflation kept on falling it would cut soon. Last month, the bank held rates steady, warning that inflation risks remained "high" and that the then oil price rise could be "unsustainable." However, the decision came at a time of renewed hope for Russia's beleaguered economy and the country's oil industry with commodity prices showing tentative signs of recovery. The central bank noted that it "sees the positive processes of inflation slowdown and inflation expectations decline, as well as shifts in the economy which anticipate the beginning of its recovery growth. At the same time, inflation risks remain elevated." Yann Quelenn, market analyst at Swissquote explains: "The ruble has continued to appreciate ever since it reached its all-time low against the dollar in early January. At that time, more than 82 ruble could be exchanged for a single dollar note. Now, the USDRUB has weakened below 65 and even more upside pressures on the currency continue as the rebound in oil prices persists. The outlook for Russian oil revenues is more positive despite the global supply glut. Expectations for increased oil demand over the coming years and the fear of peak oil are driving the black commodity’s prices higher – MARKET DATA RELEASES TODAY - Other data that analysts will be looking out for today include Turkey’s trade balance; GDP from Spain; the unemployment rate from Norway; mortgage approvals from UK; CPI and GDP from the eurozone; CPI from Italy; and South Africa’s trade balance – FTSE GLOBAL MARKETS – Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 2ndt. We wish our readers and clients a happy and restful May bank holiday and we look forward to reconnecting on Tuesday May 3rd. Happy Holidays!

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Investors come back to the markets in search of returns Photograph © Xy/ Dreamstime.com, supplied March 2013.

Investors come back to the markets in search of returns

Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Investors come back to the markets in search of returns The markets this year have started with a bullet. The current bull market hints that investor confidence might be rising as the debt crisis in Europe looks to be under control and the US is managing its fiscal cliff. What are the implications of this sea-change? Carey Olsen, which advises on the largest total number of funds and assets under management in Guernsey, believes there will be slow and steady growth in both fund creation and the breadth of investments they adopt. Corporate partner, Graham Hall, examines where this growth will come from and what innovations investors and private equity houses are employing to realise returns. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/media/k2/items/cache/e37cb185c8f2dc5dd52ce2fc045570ec_XL.jpg

The markets this year have started with a bullet. The current bull market hints that investor confidence might be rising as the debt crisis in Europe looks to be under control and the US is managing its fiscal cliff. What are the implications of this sea-change? Carey Olsen, which advises on the largest total number of funds and assets under management in Guernsey, believes there will be slow and steady growth in both fund creation and the breadth of investments they adopt. Corporate partner, Graham Hall, examines where this growth will come from and what innovations investors and private equity houses are employing to realise returns.

Equities have started to move this year. Having locked up money for four years, keeping their money in ‘safe’ investments, investors now look to be interested again in assets which they think offer potential for higher yields. There is, of course, some residual skittishness but recent movement in the markets indicates there is a lot more confidence and enthusiasm.


There have been rallies in the past which have not stuck and there is still a question mark as to whether (or how long) this one will hold. However, the market does seem to think there is a way to go before there will be any sort of correction.




If the past four years has taught anything it is that it often pays to be innovative and funds are seeking unusual opportunities where the risk is seen as manageable. With interest rates remaining at historic lows, investors are chasing yield and the focus is firmly on emerging, or high growth markets, particularly those with a history of under-investment. Eastern Europe is a particular case in point. Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia joined the European Union club in the past eight years while Montenegro, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia and Turkey remain in the wings, with EU membership only a function of time.


In spite of some structural economic problems, growth figures across the region remain attractive. The Polish economy, for instance, grew by 3.8% in 2011; Austria grew by 3.3%, while Moldova, Estonia and Lithuania all grew between 6% and 7% in real gross domestic product (GDP) terms.


These figures compare to Germany’s 2.7% growth and the Eurozone’s blended growth rate of around 1.6%, over the same year. The growth rates in the eastern European zone points to opportunities in the development of infrastructure and commercial property (where property values remain low, but high returns are predicted); it is an attractive combination for investors recently starved of promising investments in Western Europe and the United States.


Graham HallGraham Hall, corporate partner, Carey Olsen, Guernsey.Debt is also attractive as banks get rid of their loan books and finance houses adjust their loan-to-asset ratios. Much of this debt is now being sold off, sometimes their whole debt portfolios.  Debt books can be picked up relatively cheaply by smaller operators at significantly reduced rates. Of particular interest, but not openly discussed, are lease car debt books. These books are sold at significant discounts and it is an area of significant potential returns as the economy improves and the risk of holding this debt reduces.


Hedge funds also have appeal right now. They are performing better than they have in a long while and investors are beginning to recoup, or certainly looking to, the losses of the past. Whether it means more money being invested in hedge funds remains to be seen. It is difficult to give a time frame on when we might see a return to more halcyon days because, while there are individuals and select funds rallying, it is the big institutional pension funds that are needed to ensure a true return to performance. This sector is traditionally cautious and, having been severely hit in the crisis, their return will be slow and steady. It is really only 10% of the market that is prepared to take a risk and they appear to be a lot more open to the idea this year.


There was a flight to Luxembourg by many hedge funds during the economic crisis thinking they needed to be seen to be onshore. Many are now realising this was a false perception as Luxembourg is an expensive and bureaucratic place to do business which has an impact in the efficiency of the funds and the returns that can be made. These funds are starting to look at other jurisdictions that offer ­stability and pragmatic regulation without the expense or bureaucracy. As ever, Guernsey is ideally placed to reap these opportunities. According to the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, the net asset value of total funds under management and administration increased in the third quarter (Q3) in 2012 by £3.6bn (1.3%) to reach £274.4bn.


For the year since 30th September 2011, total net asset values increased by £3.3bn (1.2%). Guernsey is indicative of the worldwide trend where the interest in open-ended funds has decreased by £1.6bn (-3.2%) over the quarter to £51.5bn. The closed-ended sector increased over the quarter, by £4.2bn (3.3%) to reach £130.3bn. This represents an increase of £4.6bn (3.7%) over the year since 30th September 2011.


The market recognises Guernsey’s proven operating model with highly skilled professionals across the board. It is up to Guernsey to ensure it does not become too expensive but this is a secondary consideration to investors with the level of expertise and experience being far more important. Investors and funds, now more than ever, want to know that a jurisdiction has breadth and depth.


It would be overstating the case to suggest the fund markets are entirely out of the woods; but there are definitely strong ‘green shoots’. Guernsey certainly remains the most popular jurisdiction for private equity albeit with fewer funds being created. There is activity from global private equity houses investing in infrastructure (Terra Firma, Permira, and Apex). They continue to invest but at lower levels. For example, the focus has been on global farmland as a sound investment for some of these closed-ended funds with investments being made in cattle stations in Australia and New Zealand (beef and dairy) and in China.


It is tighter market and funds are looking much harder at efficiencies and costs. It is harder to raise the money and it takes longer and funds are launching with lower expectations which, arguably, is no bad thing.


Closed-ended funds are the majority of the market now and will continue to grow. 2013 has started as a bull market. The driving sentiment is one of optimism. There is a movement away from bonds and corporate gilts but there will not be a return the pre-2008 activity for a long time—slow and steady seems to be this year’s watchwords.

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