On Tuesday a transnational group of terrorists seized Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. The army did not resist. Abandoned equipment and millions of dollars left in Mosul’s banks are now at the disposal of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which calls the government in Baghdad “Safavid”, after a foreign Persian dynasty that once ruled Iraq.
But never mind that. Would you like to take the government’s side for a yield of 6.7 per cent? That is where risk is being priced in Iraq’s US dollar bond due in 2028. This would be after the market had digested ill tidings from Mosul.
Not so sure of the risk-reward there? Investors may prefer to buy into the stability of the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with Egyptian hard-currency bonds that mature in a quarter of a century. These yield just below 7 per cent. How about Belarus? There is a 6.5 per cent yield on bonds due in 2018. Trust that no revolution in Minsk disrupts cash flows before then.
The point here is not simply that some dodgy sovereigns are being priced with low yields. Risk assets are being bid up generally, even as US Treasury yields have fallen so far in 2014. Foreign-currency EM bonds are still cheaper overall than high-yield developed-market credit. Even so, investors are beginning to buy these bonds with ever less discrimination.
This is reflected in forex markets too. Four of the world’s five best-performing currencies this year have been former “Fragile Five” countries. Their high current account deficits were seen as vulnerable to capital flight after last year’s taper tantrum. It would be reassuring if the market were rewarding efforts since to fix these fundamentals – notably in India. But the top performer is Brazil – which has made relatively little progress.
A brave investor may also argue that fundamentals favour the Iraqi bond. The country sells lots of oil. But 6.7 per cent? EM bond risks may not seem so high when risk has become favoured everywhere. That is not the same as riskless.
周二，一个跨国恐怖分子集团占领了伊拉克第二大城市摩苏尔(Mosul)。军队没有抵抗。遗弃的装备和留在摩苏尔各银行的数百万美元，现在由“伊拉克与黎凡特伊斯兰国”（Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant，简称Isis）支配——该组织将巴格达的政府称为“萨菲”(Safavid)，取自曾经统治伊拉克的外族波斯王朝“萨菲王朝”。
不确定那里的风险/回报？投资者可能更愿意买入埃及总统塞西(Abdel Fattah al-Sisi)的稳定政权，埃及的硬通货债券将于25年后到期。其收益率略低于7%。或者白俄罗斯的债券如何？2018年到期的债券收益率是6.5%。要相信在那之前，明斯克(Minsk)不会发生革命而扰乱现金流。