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Sovereign debt: Emerging markets funds seek developed distress

EM investors buy Greek debt; Technical constraints limit flows

At the beginning of the century one of the big trends in emerging markets was the amount of interest in the asset class from crossover investors. These global funds and accounts had traditionally focused on the debt of G7 borrowers but turned to riskier assets in a search for higher yield. They became the dominant investor base in hard-currency emerging market debt.

Ten years on, with western Europe and the US facing severe fiscal and debt crises, the reverse is happening. Emerging markets investors are increasingly looking to buy debt issued from stressed developed world borrowers such as Greece. So far, according to market participants, the amounts being invested are small.

Hot topic

Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that the trend is set and will get bigger. "It’s been the hot topic over the past six months – whether there’s a crossover emerging markets investor base," says Ulrik Ross, head of European public sector debt capital markets at HSBC.

Paul Brain, a fixed-income fund manager at Newton Investment Management, says: "A lot of fund flows to emerging markets are looking for yield and better-quality credits. Some of that has been recycled to the developed world as an alternative."

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