David joined Prudential Portfolio Managers SA, as Head of Fixed Income in January 2009. Prior to Prudential, he was the senior fixed interest portfolio manager in the London office of M&G Investments. David worked at Prudential in South Africa in 1999 and 2000, and was responsible for establishing our current fixed interest process. Before joining M&G, David worked for Hill Samuel Asset Management as a fixed income fund manager, managing both life and pension funds for a variety of clients. David graduated from the London School of Economics with a BSc in Economics and from Birkbeck College with an MSc in Economics. He is an Associate of the Institute of Investment Management and Research.
Michael is Head of Real Return at Prudential Investment Managers, with 19 years’ experience. He is co-Portfolio Manager of four Prudential unit trust funds, and has won several Raging Bull & Morningstar Awards. Michael is primarily responsible for helping determine asset allocation in our multi-asset funds and institutional mandates.
Prudential Global Bond Feeder comment - Mar 19
After the sharp losses suffered at the end of 2018, investors were able to take heart in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019 with markets rebounding as a few negative factors appeared to reverse themselves. Although evidence of slowing global growth continued to mount, global bonds rallied strongly after the US Federal Reserve announced a substantial change of view and decided to pause (and perhaps even end) its interest rate hiking cycle. At the same time, other developed market central banks undertook more growth-supportive moves, and considerable progress was reportedly made in resolving the US-China trade dispute. On the negative side, an even more chaotic Brexit environment and the uncertainty engendered by Trump's unpredictability remained bearish factors for markets. Emerging markets also benefitted from the more bullish sentiment and the Fed's rate pause, but some like Turkey and Venezuela faced idiosyncratic challenges.
In the US, it was the Fed's more dovish rate stance that proved to be the key for turning last year's losses into this quarter's gains. The Bank emphasized that it would be 'patient' when it came to further raising interest rates, given that the case for hiking had weakened in the face of slowing global and US growth. This eased fears that inexorably higher rates could choke off growth. US GDP growth for Q4 2018 was revised down to 2.2% (q/q annualised) from 2.6% previously, sharply lower than the 3.4% in Q3 2018. Dismal US retail sales data were a key highlight. Not only did the Fed opt to keep rates on hold at its January and March FOMC meetings, but on 20 March its 'dot plot' showed it had slashed its own interest rate expectations from two 25bp rate hikes in 2019 to zero, and only one 25bp hike in 2020. This was very positive for equities, and also helped push longer-dated US Treasury bond yields lower, such that the yield curve 'inverted' for the first time since 2007 (where 3-month interest rates were higher than those for 10-year bonds). Some interpreted this as a sign of a looming recession. For the quarter, the US 10-year Treasury yield fell from around 2.68% to end at 2.41%.
Adding to the general positive news was the end of the 35-day US government shutdown in January, and that good progress was reportedly being made in the US-China trade negotiations to avert higher tariffs and a full-blown trade war. This was particularly beneficial for the global growth outlook, especially for trade-dependent countries like China, Japan and South Korea, and helped push the US dollar stronger for the quarter against most other currencies (although not the yen).
In the UK, agreement was reached with the EU to extend the Brexit deadline into April, and PM Theresa May effectively lost control over determining a way forward, forced to hand over to Parliament. However, MPs rejected every possible option for structuring the future relationship, worsening the chaos within government. Meanwhile, UK GDP growth slowed to 1.4% (q/q annualised) in Q4 2018 from 1.6% previously, with the EU area equally pedestrian at 1.4% for the quarter. This deteriorating growth was a factor in keeping interest rates on hold across both regions, as well as in the US Fed's interest rate view. The European Central Bank even introduced a new cheap long-term loan plan for banks to help avoid further deceleration, as Germany's manufacturing data was negative for three months in a row.
During the quarter it was revealed that the Japanese economy returned to growth in Q4 2018 after a contraction in Q3, although exports remained sluggish amid trade uncertainty and the slowdown in Chinese growth. Japanese GDP is forecast to reach around 1.0% in 2019, supported by the Bank of Japan's ongoing easy monetary policy, but expected to be hit by a new consumption tax on spending and consumer prices to take effect later in 2019. In China, 2018 GDP growth came in at 6.6%, its weakest in 28 years but meeting consensus expectations. The government's new 2019 growth target is even lower at 6.0%-6.5%. There was, however, renewed optimism amid the positive US-China trade news; government pro-growth measures, including easier bank credit, took effect; and manufacturing activity accelerated - China's PMI recorded its highest rise since 2012.
Despite US dollar strength, the rand lost only 0.5% versus the greenback, but 2.1% against the UK pound sterling, while gaining 1.3% against the euro, which was hit by growth concerns and more dovish interest rate expectations.
The fund produced a return of 3.6% (net of fees) for the first quarter of 2019, outperforming its benchmark by 0.8%. For the year ended 31 March 2019, the fund returned 19.2% (net of fees), underperforming its benchmark by 2.5%. Contributing to performance over the quarter were overweight positions US investment grade bonds, with exposure to emerging market government bonds (including selected Mexican treasuries) also adding to performance.
STRATEGY AND POSITIONING
We remain highly active within the global bond asset class, seeking positive positions on emerging market government bonds due to their diversification qualities and their potential for better real yields compared to mainstream bonds. In terms of trades over the period, we added exposure to the high-carrying Turkish lira out of an existing short-dated Turkey bond holding. We also added a new position in global resources group Vale's 2032 bond following a sharp sell-off in the South American miner's debt during January. The fund continues to reflect our preference for selected areas of credit and emerging market bonds through selected exposures issued by Mexico, South Africa and Brazil governments, based on the view that these offer better value than mainstream government bonds at present.
The fund aims to maximise total return while generating a relatively high yield when compared to global bond markets. This is obtained through exposure to a selection of higher-yielding global corporate bonds. This specialist Fund invests in a blend of international unit trust funds, with underlying bond holdings diversified in terms of geography, currency, maturity and credit risk to ensure a high risk adjusted return. The Fund primarily invests in developed markets which provide a hedge against the Rand and emerging market risk.
Who Should Invest?
Individuals who require an ongoing high level of income from their investment capital combined with global diversification.