Emerging market local currency bonds: diversification and stability

BIS Working Papers No 391
November 2012

Over the past three years, cross-border inflows into emerging market (EM) local currency bonds have surged. The returns on these bonds have moved more closely with those on international assets regarded as "safe", particularly following the euro area debt crisis. This paper first demonstrates that domestic factors have tended to dictate the dynamics of the EM local currency government yield. The importance of local drivers has probably increased the potential diversification benefit, creating strong appetite for the asset class. Second, the paper confirms that EM local currency government yields have behaved more like safe haven yields since 2008: they have dropped, rather than increased, in response to worsening global risk sentiment. Yet EM local currency government yields could be susceptible to adverse external shocks: the yield dynamics have been affected by unsustainably low US Treasury yields. Moreover, the international role of EM local currency bonds depends crucially on the behaviour of exchange rates. Nevertheless, the further development of local currency bond markets should help strengthen the stability of the international monetary and financial system.

JEL classification: E43, F36, G12.

Keywords: Currency mismatches, emerging market local currency bond, diversification benefit, safe asset, panel VAR