Investments get ‘real’ as inflation fears dim appeal of bonds

Real assets were gaining in popularity even before pandemic-linked government and central bank stimulus raised inflation expectations. (AFP)
Real assets were gaining in popularity even before pandemic-linked government and central bank stimulus raised inflation expectations. (AFP)
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Updated 09 April 2021

Investments get ‘real’ as inflation fears dim appeal of bonds

Investments get ‘real’ as inflation fears dim appeal of bonds
  • European funds are the most keen to cut their exposure to bonds

LONDON: Electric vehicle infrastructure, top-end offices and industrial metals — with a resurgence in inflation seemingly on the horizon, investors are slashing their exposure to bonds in favor of “real” assets.
While such investments tend to generate income and often appreciate in value, they are particularly prized as a shield against inflation, which many economists expect will make a return as economies recover from the pandemic.
That means major changes for multi-asset portfolios run along traditional 60-40 lines. Sovereign debt such as US Treasuries and German Bunds has typically accounted for part of a rough 40 percent bond allocation — providing an income and acting as an anchor against the lucrative but volatile 60 percent equity component.
But with rock-bottom yields, G7 sovereign debt is offering neither substantial income in normal times nor much safety when things turn rough, and inflation may prove an even bigger headwind.
Guilhem Savry, head of macro and dynamic allocation at $22 billion asset manager Unigestion, has slashed bond exposure to nearly the lowest since October 2019, instead favoring energy, industrial metals and commodity-linked currencies.
“The reversal of bond yields this year is the game changer for the 60-40 portfolio,” he said.
“We think inflation will be much more sustainable than the (US) Federal Reserve thinks. The uncertainty for owning fixed income assets has increased sharply.”
Inflation erodes the value of future bond coupon payments and fears of a pickup in the measure drove US 10-year Treasuries to a 5 percent loss in the first three months of the year, their worst quarter since 1987, according to Refinitiv data.
It was also the first quarter in more than two years that a 60:40 portfolio underperformed more flexible strategies, according to fund tracker Morningstar.
Those sticking to 60:40 models will earn less than 2 percent on an annualized basis in the next 20 years, Credit Suisse warns, a third of what was generated in the last 20 years.
“We’re reimagining the ‘40,’ looking at what else can you own to provide income and diversify,” said Grace Peters, investment strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
Peters has added exposure to construction materials, which are set to benefit from a $2 trillion US infrastructure push. She is bullish too on digital infrastructure, particularly 5G networks and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and private, or unlisted assets, such as real estate, where
she sees “a broader sweep of opportunities.”
Annual returns of 4-6 percent, comprising rental income and capital appreciation, exceed those of most G7 bonds, Peters said.
European funds are the most keen to cut their exposure to bonds, said Christian Gerlach, a founding partner at boutique investment firm Gerlach Associates. While eurozone inflation remains dormant, yields on two-thirds of the region’s sovereign bonds are negative.
Real assets were gaining in popularity even before pandemic- linked government and central bank stimulus raised inflation expectations. Consultancy Willis Towers Watson estimates pension funds’ bond allocations fell to 29 percent over the past 15 years, while “alternatives” nearly doubled to 23 percent.
But broadly they remain underowned, comprising just 5.5 percent of exchange traded funds’ assets, Bank of America data shows.
The bank’s strategist Michael Hartnett is among those making
the case for real assets, believing a secular turning point for both inflation and interest rates has arrived to halt the 40-year bull market in bonds.
Valuations for property, commodities, infrastructure and collectibles are the lowest since 1925 relative to financial assets, Hartnett told clients, noting US Treasuries were at their most expensive relative to, for example, diamond prices.
Finally, there is a 73 percent correlation between their returns and inflation, he said, making them “a very good hedge against rising inflation and interest rates in coming years.”
Investors will continue to hold the liquid, ultra-safe bonds issued by G7 countries, which are useful as collateral, capital buffers and defensive assets, with rising yields over time likely restore some of their ability to act as portfolio “ballast.”
For now though, BofA’s latest monthly survey shows investors are “very short” bonds, versus record high commodity allocations, with a record net 93 percent of those surveyed expecting higher inflation in the coming 12 months.


Qatar wealth fund says no investment in cryptocurrencies until they mature

Qatar wealth fund says no investment in cryptocurrencies until they mature
Updated 8 min ago

Qatar wealth fund says no investment in cryptocurrencies until they mature

Qatar wealth fund says no investment in cryptocurrencies until they mature
  • Crypto currencies are currently too volatile, QIA CEO says
  • QIA seeks to boost investment in Asia and US

DOHA: Qatar’s wealth fund avoids investing in cryptocurrencies due to their extreme volatility, Bloomberg reported.

Cryptocurrencies “need a bit of maturity before we make our view about investing in that space,” QIA CEO Mansoor Bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud said at the Qatar Economic Forum.

Instead of crypto assets, the QIA will focus on continuing to boost investments in Asia and the US as it looks to balance out a concentration of European assets in its portfolio, Al-Mahmoud said.

The fund is also going to be investing more into warehouses in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on retail and office real estate, he said.

Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with assets estimated at over $360 billion, according to Global SWF.

Bitcoin has lost more than 50 percent from its mid-April high of almost $65,000. The coin started 2021 trading around $29,000 following a fourfold increase in 2020. It bounced back on Wednesday after earlier whipsawing investors with a dip below the $30,000 level.

This year the fund will also look to formalize the process of factoring in environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) considerations into its investment criteria, the Al-Mahmoud said.

“We have been investing in ESG initiatives and projects for quite some time, and this year it will be institutionalized,” he said. “We will embed ESG into our investment process,” he said.


IMF approves one year $5.2bn stand-by arrangement for Egypt

IMF approves one year $5.2bn stand-by arrangement for Egypt
Updated 42 min 58 sec ago

IMF approves one year $5.2bn stand-by arrangement for Egypt

IMF approves one year $5.2bn stand-by arrangement for Egypt
  • IMF authorizes Egypt to withdraw $1.7bn after reform program review

RIYADH: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 12-month stand-by arrangement for Egypt, with access equivalent to 3.76 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDR) equivalent to about $5.2 billion.

After a strong track record of successfully completing a home-grown economic reform program supported by the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility in 2016-2019, Egypt was one of the fastest growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the IMF said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new arrangement aims to help Egypt cope with challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing IMF resources to meet Egypt’s balance of payments needs and to finance the budget deficit. It will be allowed to withdraw $1.7bn after its reform program has been reviewed.

“Over the past few years, Egypt saw strong growth, falling unemployment, moderate inflation, buildup of strong reserve buffers, and significant reduction in public debt,” said Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair Antoinette Sayeh.

Sayeh emphasized Egypt’s commitment to broaden and deepen structural reforms, and refocus to address the economic health crisis during the pandemic.


Egyptian president approves July pension and wage increases

Egyptian president approves July pension and wage increases
Updated 24 June 2021

Egyptian president approves July pension and wage increases

Egyptian president approves July pension and wage increases
  • Pensions to be raised 13 percent at cost of 31 billion Egyptian pounds
  • Minimum wage to rise from 2,400 Egyptian pounds from 2,000

RIYADH: Egypt’s official gazette published President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s decision to increase pensions as of the beginning of July, Al Arabiya reported.

Pensions will be raised 13 percent at a cost of 31 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.9 billion) and minimum monthly wages will be increased from 2,000 Egyptian pounds to 2,400 Egyptian pounds at a cost of 37 billion Egyptian pounds.

This decision will complete the total of the pension, subsidies and increases to minimum wages, local papers reported.

Egyptians’ salaries have jumped more than 240 times in about 41 years, according to data compiled by Al Arabiya.

Egypt’s budget, to be implemented in early July, also includes two bonuses at a cost of about 7.5 billion Egyptian pounds, and an increase in stimulus at a total cost of about 17 billion Egyptian pounds.


Reliance expects Aramco deal to formalize this year amid $10bn energy push

Reliance expects Aramco deal to formalize this year amid $10bn energy push
Employees work at the Reliance Industries Petrol pump in Navi Mumbai. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 55 sec ago

Reliance expects Aramco deal to formalize this year amid $10bn energy push

Reliance expects Aramco deal to formalize this year amid $10bn energy push
  • Plan to invest $10bn in a new energy business over three years
  • Reliance had announced a sale of a 20 percent stake in its oil-to-chemicals business for $15 billion in 2019 to Aramco

BENGALURU: Reliance Industries said on Thursday it hopes to formalize its partnership with Saudi Aramco this year and its Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan will join the Indian conglomerate’s board as an independent director.
“Al-Rumayyan joining our board is also the beginning of internationalization of Reliance,” Chairman Mukesh Ambani told shareholders on Thursday.
Reliance had announced a sale of a 20 percent stake in its oil-to-chemicals business for $15 billion in 2019 to Aramco, the world’s top oil exporting firm.
However, the deal stalled after oil prices and demand crashed last year due to the pandemic.
Separately, Reliance Industries said it would invest 750 billion Indian rupees ($10.10 billion) in a new energy business over the next three years, Ambani said.
Reliance will build solar manufacturing units, a battery factory for energy storage, a fuel cell-making factory and an electrolyzer unit to produce green hydrogen as a part of the business, Ambani said.
As a part of the new business — called the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex — Reliance will also build solar capacities of at least 100 GW by 2030, Asia’s richest man told his shareholders at the meeting which was held virtually due to COVID-19.
That would account for over a fifth of India’s renewable energy target of installing 450 GW by 2030. India wants green energy sources to make up 40 percent of electricity generated by the end of this decade.


Cheap Dubai cost of living may attract rich expats, says Tellimer

Cheap Dubai cost of living may attract rich expats, says Tellimer
Updated 24 June 2021

Cheap Dubai cost of living may attract rich expats, says Tellimer

Cheap Dubai cost of living may attract rich expats, says Tellimer
  • Dubai cost of living is 20 percent below Singapore and Hong Kong

DUBAI: Cheaper Dubai property prices may attract rich expatriates who are affluent enough to move for lifestyle and wealth preservation reasons, Tellimer said.
Dubai has liberalized its visa regime, falls under the UAE’s Abraham Accords with Israel, and has maintained a globally rare sense of normality during the pandemic helped by an efficient vaccination program, the emerging markets research group noted.
The emirate, famed for its glitzy developments and lavish lifestyle, now has a cost of living that is 20 percent below Hong Kong and Singapore.


“The main driver of this competitiveness is residential property prices, which, since the start of 2015, are up 35 percent in Hong Kong, flat in Singapore, and down 30 percent in Dubai,” Tellimer said.
Since 2010, property rentals are down 45 percent and other items (groceries, transport, utilities) have fallen by 10 percent.
The emirate has relaxed its visa rules recently and has attracted an influx of so-called digital nomads and other investors.