SATYAJIT DAS: Are we heading for an emerging market meltdown?
'True liabilities are hard to establish and investor control over funds can be limited'
Over the past decade, a lot of capital has flowed into emerging markets thanks in part to excessive liquidity in advanced economies. This money has often found its way into risky or suspect investment structures. Should a crisis strike — say, contagion from Turkey — investors in these markets will be exposed to risks that they simply aren’t prepared for. One problem is that investors have piled into familiar carry trades, either directly or via funds. They’ve purchased high-yielding emerging-market securities and then, as returns have fallen, resorted to more adventurous strategies to boost income. Japanese retail investors, for example, are exposed to funds known as double-deckers, which purchase high-yield debt, then swap the income flows from the bond into a currency with high interest rates.
Investors gain if the underlying bonds perform well and the currency appreciates against the yen. But they suffer capital losses if the bonds default or the currency falls. Such funds ...