Our investment teams share their thoughts on Asian financials, how the different scenarios for the US dollar could impact Asian currencies and China’s latest cut to its reserve requirement ratio.
Markets appear to have stabilised slightly following the recent volatility in the US and European banking systems1 as global central banks moved to reassure investors. In line with the swift response by the US regulators to stem contagion fears, the Swiss National Bank stepped in on Thursday to offer liquidity support to Credit Suisse (CS) while the European Central Bank (ECB) indicated that it stood prepared to provide liquidity support to the euro area financial system. Over the weekend, UBS agreed to buy CS for USD3.2bn, in a historic deal brokered by the Swiss regulators. The Federal Reserve, ECB, the Bank of England, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Canada, and the Bank of Japan have also announced daily swap lines to improve access to dollar liquidity.
Views from Asia
While the US and European banking stocks had corrected sharply, the impact on Asian financials has been more contained. Since March 8, the MSCI World Financials Index has fallen 10.6% while the MSCI Asian Financials Index is down 4.2%2. According to Sundeep Bihani, Eastspring’s Asian equities portfolio manager, most Asian central banks tend to be conservative in their oversight of the banks and apply strict standards when it comes to bank funding parameters. Many of the Asian central banks have also not forgotten the lessons from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. He favours Asian financials that have higher than regulated capital levels, and where the durations of their assets and liabilities are well matched. For the Asian banks that he likes, their hold-to-maturity investments are typically only a small percentage of total assets, and their short-term liquidity coverage ratios are high relative to history.
That said, Sundeep is monitoring the potential second-round effects that can come from tighter USD liquidity, higher counterparty risks and wider global credit spreads. In such instances, he believes that the larger better-capitalised, low-cost funded banks will tend to fare better.
While Japanese financials have sold off with the MSCI Japan Financials Index down 9.8%3 since March 8, Ivailo Dikov, Eastspring’s Head of Japan Equities, believes that this is largely due to revised market expectations of a flatter Japanese yield curve rather than a result of contagion fears. He remains highly selective within the Japanese banking sector, favouring banks that manage their interest risks well, do not actively use hold-to-maturity securities and where the duration of their domestic bond portfolios is very short. He prefers larger banks with ample and sticker deposits – in his view, big, diversified, and well-capitalised banks are likely to benefit should there be a flight in deposits. The team continues to look for long-term opportunities within the sector which will benefit from restructuring and cost efficiencies.
Meanwhile, Rong Ren Goh, Eastspring’s Asian bonds portfolio manager notes that Asian currencies have been relatively resilient amid the recent market volatility, on the assumption that the US and European developments would have a limited impact on Asia. As the Fed’s rate hikes start to bite, the risk of a US recession is rising. He believes that just as interest rate differentials drove USD strength amid the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes in 2022, USD strength could also moderate if markets start to price in less aggressive Fed rate hikes in the near term. This could potentially be supportive of Asian currencies.
However, Rong Ren cautions that if US and European regulators are not able to restore investor confidence and concerns about the health of the banking system - and by extension, of the US economy – escalates, a significant retrenchment in risk appetite could result in a stronger USD as in typical protracted risk-off episodes.
Meanwhile, Asian central banks remain watchful of the developments in the US and Europe. The People’s Bank of China announced a 25bp cut to the Reserve Requirement Ratio (RRR) for almost all banks, effective 27 March. The cut is estimated to release about RMB 500 bn into the banking system. According to Jingjing Weng, Research Lead at Eastspring Shanghai, while the move reflects the Chinese government’s commitment to boost demand and support China’s post-pandemic recovery , its earlier than expected timing suggests that it could also be a pre-emptive move to ease interbank liquidity conditions and to strengthen market confidence in China in the wake of the banking sector volatility in the US and Europe.
The rise of Japan’s new dawn?
Japanese value stocks are still trading at an attractive discount to Japanese growth ...
Why global businesses look to Asia for opportunities
Asia is transforming. To stay relevant, global chief executives acknowledge that their ...
Capitalising on Asia’s green growth
Asia will play a leading role in the world’s green transition, especially in the clean ...
Asia 2.0: Investing in an era of new opportunities
As global growth slows, investors and businesses are renewing their focus on Asia. ...
India: Getting too big to ignore
03 May | Anand Gupta
India makes up 15% of the MSCI Emerging Market Index. With it expected to drive one ...
Monthly Highlights - April
Equity markets rise despite higher oil price and expectations of more rate hikes.
Inflation eases but remains above targets
Asia’s rate hiking cycle is nearing its end
Asian banks and AT1s
19 Apr | Wai Mei Leong
AT1s serve to strengthen a bank’s overall reserves and will thus remain a viable ...
Asia’s path to a greener future: Six technologies with decarbonising potential
Asia, home to vast engines of economic growth, is at the centre of the climate debate. ...
7 reasons why Asian High Yields are returning to investors’ radars
17 Apr | Wai Mei Leong
The outlook for Asian High Yields is expected to improve, given peak default rates ...
1At the point of writing – 20 March 2023
2Bloomberg. As of 17 March 2023. In USD terms.
3Bloomberg. As of 17 March 2023. In USD terms.
Singapore by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H)
Australia (for wholesale clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H), which is incorporated in Singapore, is exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services licence and is licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under Singapore laws which differ from Australian laws
Hong Kong by Eastspring Investments (Hong Kong) Limited and has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong.
Indonesia by PT Eastspring Investments Indonesia, an investment manager that is licensed, registered and supervised by the Indonesia Financial Services Authority (OJK).
Malaysia by Eastspring Investments Berhad (531241-U).
Thailand by Eastspring Asset Management (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
United States of America (for institutional clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H), which is incorporated in Singapore and is registered with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission as a registered investment adviser.
European Economic Area (for professional clients only) and Switzerland (for qualified investors only) by Eastspring Investments (Luxembourg) S.A., 26, Boulevard Royal, 2449 Luxembourg, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, registered with the Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés (Luxembourg), Register No B 173737.
United Kingdom (for professional clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Luxembourg) S.A. - UK Branch, 10 Lower Thames Street, London EC3R 6AF.
Chile (for institutional clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H), which is incorporated in Singapore and is licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under Singapore laws which differ from Chilean laws.
The afore-mentioned entities are hereinafter collectively referred to as Eastspring Investments.
The views and opinions contained herein are those of the author, and may not necessarily represent views expressed or reflected in other Eastspring Investments’ communications. This document is solely for information purposes and does not have any regard to the specific investment objective, financial situation and/or particular needs of any specific persons who may receive this document. This document is not intended as an offer, a solicitation of offer or a recommendation, to deal in shares of securities or any financial instruments. It may not be published, circulated, reproduced or distributed without the prior written consent of Eastspring Investments. Reliance upon information in this document is at the sole discretion of the reader. Please carefully study the related information and/or consult your own professional adviser before investing.
Investment involves risks. Past performance of and the predictions, projections, or forecasts on the economy, securities markets or the economic trends of the markets are not necessarily indicative of the future or likely performance of Eastspring Investments or any of the funds managed by Eastspring Investments.
Information herein is believed to be reliable at time of publication. Data from third party sources may have been used in the preparation of this material and Eastspring Investments has not independently verified, validated or audited such data. Where lawfully permitted, Eastspring Investments does not warrant its completeness or accuracy and is not responsible for error of facts or opinion nor shall be liable for damages arising out of any person’s reliance upon this information. Any opinion or estimate contained in this document may subject to change without notice.
Eastspring Investments companies (excluding joint venture companies) are ultimately wholly owned/indirect subsidiaries of Prudential plc of the United Kingdom. Eastspring Investments companies (including joint venture companies) and Prudential plc are not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc., a company whose principal place of business is in the United States of America or with the Prudential Assurance Company Limited, a subsidiary of M&G plc (a company incorporated in the United Kingdom).