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Bond investors say emerging markets will suffer most in US, China trade war

Vanguard Asset Management expects riskier debt - such as that of Ukraine, Argentina and Indonesia - to be hardest hit by the turbulence

Bloomberg  |  London 

Investors, banks, NBFCs

are betting that emerging-market assets will be the worst hit if global trade tensions continue to simmer.

Ambushed by the latest tweet storm from US President and his carry through with higher tariffs, they are selling higher-yielding developing-market assets while scaling into government debt in advanced economies. Or they are just sitting it out, waiting for the latest spike in volatility to settle down.

Vanguard Asset Management expects riskier debt — such as that of Ukraine, Argentina and Indonesia — to be hardest hit by the turbulence. Deutsche Bank AG prefers to take a short position in the South African rand as a defensive strategy, while Nomura Asset Management is avoiding adding new trades altogether.

Investors are cutting risk and seeking safety amid concern the latest flare-up of the U.S.-China trade war will hurt the global economy that had barely begun to show recovery signs. In one ominous signal Thursday, a part of the US yield curve briefly inverted for the first time since March, potentially foreshadowing a recession.

The risk of a fully-blown trade war with China has risen since Trump delivered on his threat to more than double tariffs on the Asian nation, and as Beijing said it has been forced to retaliate. The move came after discussions between Xi Jinping’s top trade envoy and his US counterparts in Washington made little progress on Thursday, with the mood around them downbeat, according to people familiar with the talks. The negotiations were due to resume on Friday morning Washington time.

Playing Wolf

“I will not be doing anything,” said Richard Hodges, a money manager at Nomura Asset Management, who doesn’t expect a trade deal between Washington and Beijing to be done until year-end. “Trump will play wolf too often and will not believe anything he says.”

Reignited trade tensions have seen yields on 10-year German bunds, perceived to be among Europe’s safest assets, slide once again below 0 per cent this week, while their US equivalents are near the lowest level in more than a month. Stocks worldwide have tumbled and EM currencies have weakened against the dollar.

First Published: Fri, May 10 2019. 22:12 IST