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Takeaway: Don’t write-off outflows from EM funds as panic selling. In reality, the cycle has turned and most investors are just now figuring that out.

Editor's note: This unlocked research note was originally published January 30, 2014 at 11:55 in Macro. For more information on how you can subscribe to Hedgeye research click here.

If you didn’t know the global macro super-cycle has turned, now you know.

CHARTS OF THE DAY: RECORD #EMERGINGOUTFLOWS - turkey 

As most recently outlined in our latest EM strategy note titled: “NAVIGATING #EMERGINGOUTFLOWS: STRATEGY FROM THE SOURCE” (1/27/14):

“We remain broadly bearish on EM assets and continue to see them for what they are: overpriced relative to a long-term TAIL investment cycle that has clearly turned in favor of DM assets, at the margins.”

Contrast our view with that of Mark Mobius, chairman of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group (i.e. one of, if not the world’s largest EM fund umbrellas):

“People are enjoying what they see as a bull market in the U.S. As we go forward, we’re going to see a lot of overweight positions in the U.S. So, given the fact that emerging markets are still growing fast, given that they have low debt-to-gross domestic product ratios, given that they have high foreign-exchange reserves, we believe that money will be flowing back in again to emerging markets.”

We don’t write that to pick on Mr. Mobius, who has obviously had a very long and successful career managing EM assets. In fact, he probably forgets more about emerging markets on the way to lunch than I have ever learned as a quote/unquote “26-year-old-analyst” (ask @JimCramer for context).

Rather, we wrote that to juxtapose how our investment framework focuses on changes on the margin – particularly relative to expectations – versus the framework employed by many investors: i.e. a narrow focus on absolutes with a dash of consensus storytelling.

Another reason we wrote that was to show you where the quote/unquote “smart money” consensus likely still is with respect to EM assets. We know the quote/unquote “dumb money” has been pulling funds out of EM assets for 6-9M now and are doing so on an accelerated basis in the YTD. With respect to the current asset price cycle, you tell me who’s “smarter”?:

  • “The MSCI Emerging Markets Index of equities is off to the worst start to a year since 2008, with about $468 billion erased from stocks this year.” – Bloomberg (1/30/14)
  •  “More than $7 billion flowed from ETFs investing in developing-nation assets in January, the most since the securities were created, data compiled by Bloomberg show.” – Bloomberg (1/30/14)
  • “The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF has seen its assets shrink by 11 percent, while the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF is poised for the biggest monthly redemption since the fund was started in 2005.” – Bloomberg (1/30/14)
  • “The WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund is on track for an eighth straight month of withdrawals… About $58 million has been withdrawn from the WisdomTree debt fund this month, bringing the total redemption since June to $752 million.” – Bloomberg (1/30/14)
  • “Withdrawals from the iShares fund and the Vanguard ETF, the largest such products by assets for emerging markets, totaled $1.9 billion on Jan. 27, the biggest one-day redemption since 2005, data compiled by Bloomberg show.” – Bloomberg (1/30/14)
  •  “ETFs accounted for almost half the $2.5 billion outflows from emerging equities last week. So far this year, a net $4.12 billion has flowed out, amounting to three quarters of the total $5.7 billion that has fled, the fund tracker said.” – Reuters (1/27/14)

In the context of the sheer amount of dough plowed into EM assets over the last ~10-12 years amid Federal Reserve-style financial repression, we could see EM assets underperform by much more and for much longer than many investors currently think. This is how people get blown up buying the [perceived] bottom. Don’t buy the [perceived] bottom in EM assets – at least not until you get the green light to do so from the Fed.

  • “Emerging markets have attracted about $7 trillion since 2005 through a mix of direct investment in manufacturing and services, mergers and acquisitions, and investment in stocks and bonds, the Institute for International Finance estimates.” – Reuters (1/27/14)
  • “JPMorgan estimates outstanding emerging market bonds at $10 trillion compared with just $422 billion in 1993.” – Reuters (1/27/14)
  • “Assets of funds benchmarked to emerging debt indices stand at $603 billion, more than double 2007 levels, it said, and over $1.3 trillion now follows MSCI's main emerging equity index.” – Reuters (1/27/14)
  • “Assets of emerging equity ETFs tracked by EPFR Global ballooned to a peak of almost $300 billion, tripling since 2008 and up from next to nothing in 2004.” – Reuters (1/27/14)
  •  “Mutual fund data from Lipper, a ThomsonReuters service, shows that in the past 10 years net inflows into debt and equity markets was in the region of $412 billion.” – Reuters (1/27/14)

CHARTS OF THE DAY: RECORD #EMERGINGOUTFLOWS - dale1

If you recall the following slide (#74) from our 4/23/13 presentation titled: “Emerging Market Crises: Identifying, Contextualizing and Navigating Key Risks in the Next Cycle”, this should all sound very familiar:

CHARTS OF THE DAY: RECORD #EMERGINGOUTFLOWS - 2

Net-net, investors have two choices when it comes to playing EM assets from here: 1) buckle up; or 2) pray to God that Janet Yellen backs away from the monetary tightening ledge. Moreover, the fact that so many institutional investors have to be invested” in EM assets only insulates our bearish bias if things really take a turn for the worse because we haven’t actually seen any “real” selling yet…

Please feel free to ping us with any feedback or questions.

DD

Darius Dale

Associate: Macro Team