Investors plan retreat from emerging markets this year

7th April 2015


Investors around the globe are planning to cut their exposure to emerging markets in 2015, following a tough 12 months which saw heavy losses for equities in key regions such as Brazil and Russia, a new study reveals.

A positive start to 2014 for many regions reversed dramatically in the second half as investors took flight from emerging markets and retreated to safe havens in developed markets, according to global asset manager Legg Mason.

The move took its toll, with the MSCI Emerging Market Index falling almost 20% in the fourth quarter, and some individual regions falling further still.

The widespread sell-off meant emerging markets ended 2014 lower than they started, and so far this year they have yet to gain much ground, trading around 20% lower than their 2011 peaks. It appears the combination of headwinds from a strengthening US dollar and uncertainty over the sustainability of global growth are causing investors around the world to avoid the region once more in 2015.

Legg Mason’s 2015 Global Investment Survey reveals that more investors than not plan to sell their emerging market exposure and move into developed markets. Twenty-nine per cent of global investors are shifting away from emerging markets, versus 21% allocating to the sector.

In terms of individual markets, Russia – among the countries worst hit by the falling oil price – is considered to be the biggest no-go area for investors. In total 49% of global investors view Russia as the riskiest global market, more than double China’s total (23%) and well ahead of Brazil (27%), despite the South American country’s economy being similarly exposed to energy.

While the tumbling oil price appears to be deterring investors from investing in Russia, investors in the UK and US remain sceptical about emerging markets in general. Just 12% of UK investors and 14% of US investors plan to increase their exposure to  emerging markets this year.

Adam Gent, head of UK sales at Legg Mason Global Asset Management, says the lack of demand for emerging markets is understandable given last year’s sell-off.

He says: “While valuations could be seen as attractive across the emerging markets space generally, there are still plenty of headwinds to deter investors. The falling oil price, a strengthening dollar and the increasing likelihood of a continued slowdown in China are all weighing on sentiment and causing investors to reassess their current position.”

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