This time's different as Asian markets warm up for Fed rate rises

Sun Sep 7, 2014 6:35am EDT
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By Vidya Ranganathan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Faced once again with the prospect of rate rises in the United States, investors in Asia are no longer selling and running as in the past, choosing instead to stay in markets like India and South Korea, that are relatively sheltered from global forces.

The two bouts of market turmoil in May 2013 and January this year demonstrated the perils of selling out of markets prematurely and indiscriminately.

This time, investors have already begun preparations for a rise in U.S. rates by mid-2015 at the earliest, albeit with a degree of caution about the different moving parts to the policy story.

For one, central banks in Europe and Japan could soon be injecting stimulus, which would compensate the world for the cash the Federal Reserve is withdrawing.

And secondly, it is entirely plausible that U.S. growth disappoints, thereby keeping yields down but pushing stock markets sharply lower.

Standard responses to a spike in U.S. rates, such as avoiding Indonesia, India and other countries which rely on external funding, may no longer be appropriate, given how rapidly Asia has changed in the past year.

The region's current account deficits are smaller, bond yields are high and currencies already quite weak. Governments perceived to be more reform-oriented have taken over in India and Indonesia, and Asia's rallying stock markets are backed by robust growth in company earnings.

"You should be in countries where idiosyncratic forces are more dominant drivers than the global forces," said Jahangir Aziz, head of Asian research at JPMorgan. "They allow you to hedge against global changes."   Continued...

People look at a screen across the road displaying the election results on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui