Foreign investors sell Asian bonds in August amid rising US yields, analysts eye rebound

(This Sept.13 story has been corrected to fix the pronoun to ‘she’ in paragraph 8)

By Gaurav Dogra and Patturaja Murugaboopathy

(Reuters) – Foreign investors sold Asian bonds in August due to a spike in U.S. yields, but analysts see potential inflows to the region as the U.S. Federal Reserve may be nearing the end of its monetary tightening, making yields in Asia attractive once again.

According to data from bond market associations and stock exchanges, there was a net outflow of $2.7 billion from Asian bonds last month, with the Malaysian, Indonesian, South Korean, Indian and Thai markets all recording the biggest net sales since October 2022.

Despite this recent decline, these five Asian bond markets have drawn an net inflow of approximately $22.21 billion for the year through August, a stark contrast to the $4.89 billion outflow seen in the first eight months of 2022.

“The Fed is close to the end of its hiking cycle. We see that the US dollar is likely to weaken from here, and so Asian currencies are likely to benefit from that,” said Jean-Charles Sambor, head of Emerging Markets Fixed Income at BNP Paribas Asset Management.

“They are likely to strengthen against the dollar by the end of this year. So we are reasonably constructive about Asian bonds and Asia FX by the end of the year.”

Resilient U.S. economic growth and strong wages pushed U.S. bond yields and the dollar higher last month, but the fears have subsided somewhat as several Federal Reserve officials indicated last week that the central bank is content to keep rates steady at their policy meeting next week, though views are split over whether the Fed will hike or pause again later this year.

Investors await key inflation data from U.S. later in the day for more clues to what the Fed will do then.

Carol Lye, portfolio Manager at Brandywine Global, said she prefers higher yielding Asian bond markets such as Indonesia and India.

“These countries still have relatively strong fundamentals across debt to GDP, budget balance, current account and have a stable inflation relative to (their) history.”

Indian bonds secured $934 million worth of foreign money in August, their fifth successive monthly inflow. However, Malaysian and Indonesian bonds had outflows worth $1.08 billion, and $600 million last month.

“In Indonesia and the Philippines, we expect inflation to continue to moderate, opening up a wide real yield gap, which should provide conditions for respective currencies to deliver better performance,” said Mark Baker, head of fixed income Hong Kong at abrdn.

(Reporting by Gaurav Dogra and Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)