One of the most widely
accepted “truths” about ESG (environmental, social and governance)
investing is that young investors are very keen to put their money into
companies that show strong ESG credentials.
Entire marketing strategies have been built around this idea. But what if, in fact, this “truth” turns out to be no more than myth?
With news of another Covid-19 vaccine on its way and optimism rising ahead of the end-year holidays, it looks like 2021 will shape up to be much better than 2020.
But one forgotten danger could spoil the party: inflation. Price rises are far from investors’ minds, but an ‘inflation tantrum’ could have devastating effects on various countries’ economies if they are not kept in check.
Among developed countries investors, there are various interpretations of the strength of the commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in emerging markets, ranging from the cynical to the idealistic.
The cynical view would be that there can be no “real” ESG in emerging markets because too often they are plagued by corruption, therefore investors cannot trust what companies in these countries report.
The idealistic view, on the other hand, would see every little step towards introducing ESG as a wonderful sign that these countries are finally deciding to adopt the same values as Western democracies.
While both extremes are wrong, sadly even the moderate take misses the main difference between emerging markets and developed ones: the effect of development itself on ESG — and in particular on the “E”.
While all eyes are still on Turkey, another emerging market is about to show the ugly side of quantitative tightening, and this time things could get really serious.
The world’s second largest economy has been a “success story” for so long that people have forgotten about China’s many vulnerabilities. Or rather, the Chinese communist party has been so good at keeping things under wraps, that few of the country’s weaknesses are known to the outside world.
This past week, there has been a frenzy of selling of emerging markets assets. The outflows from both stocks and debt in emerging markets reached their highest level since December 2016.
This amounted to $3.7 billion withdrawn from emerging market equities and bonds, according to data analysed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. These outflows have helped push our old friend, the Bull/Bear indicator developed by BofA Merrill Lynch, to 4.8 — its lowest level since January 2017.
Last week was a feast of records for Wall Street: the S&P 500 recorded six consecutive highs, something not seen for two decades. The streak only ended after a jobs report that showed the first negative reading in seven years, skewed by the hurricanes that hit the U.S. in September.
The European Central Bank (ECB) will find itself the only game in town soon. It is the only major central bank still buying bonds hand over first, and therefore it is dictating the pace for private investors.
The Indian central bank’s upcoming policy review this week, a month after demonetization, holds ample suspense for a possible interest rate cut.
The demonetization of Rs 500/1,000 currency notes since November 8 has led to a rapid inflow of deposits in banks. Brought in to fight black market money and counterfeits, the amount in circulation in these notes was estimated at around Rs 14 trillion, i.e. about 86% of the total.
Citizens were asked to deposit them in their banks, leading to the deposit surge. The Hindu, a leading daily, said ~Rs 8.5 trillion had been deposited by end November and estimated it to reach between Rs 10-11 trillion by early-December.