Friday, July 17, 2009

Emerging Markets: To Hedge or Not to Hedge?

2008 has witnessed an explosion of volatility in emerging markets, affecting both debt and equity securities. Fluctuations have been especially dramatic in the forex markets, compounding the turmoil and skewing returns for foreign investors. The South African Rand and Brazilian Real, for example, have moved so violently that for both countries, a 10% gap distinguishes the returns earned by local and foreign investors. As a result, some institutional investors are re-examining their hedging strategies with regard to emerging markets. According to experts, currency hedging among equity investors is still rare because it is expensive and often complex. If hedging is undertaken at all, it is usually outsourced to a third-party. Some investors are quite dogmatic in their insistence that hedging is a complete waste of money, and argue instead that diversification (into different countries/currencies) represents a "natural" hedge. Since, the net change in exchange rates must ultimately be zero, a diversified, long-term approach to investing in emerging markets may automatically mitigate against currency risk. The Guardian reports:
"Currency movements tend to be noisy but over the long term they are just reflective of the economy and not the driver of economic performance."

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