In this market note, Sue Trinh, Senior Macro Strategist, Manulife Investment Management, examines the immediate impact of COVID-19 on markets in Southeast Asia. She also assesses the potential longer-term effects of the outbreak on the region's economies. Particular attention is paid to GDP growth in Indonesia, India, and the Philippines.
The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting Asian economies through many direct and indirect channels. In summary:
As with most things in markets, any investment thesis depends on the investment horizon.
In the short term, the market may turn its attention to those economies that could become the next COVID-19 hot spots. Worryingly, there have been rapid increases in the confirmed cases reported in Indonesia, India and the Philippines – these are the region’s more populous economies with a more significant share of its low-income households, thinner social-security nets and weaker health infrastructure. These markets have also recorded a higher proportion of deaths, which suggests that the actual number of virus-related infections could be greater than reported due to their lower testing capacity (a function of health infrastructure).
Source: National Sources, Manulife Investment Management, as of 8 April, 2020.
If we look at the longer-term picture, many independent issues have been exacerbated by COVID-19. For instance, a protectionist push is now accelerating across the world, the US dollar is much stronger, and oil-price volatility is creating deflationary pressures, which has implications for credit markets and financial stability. Therefore, rather than a mechanical application of first in, first out, we need a more holistic approach when assessing the potential longer-term economic impact in the region.
Such a view would take into consideration the quality of health infrastructure, testing capacity and fiscal wherewithal of an economy, along with its ability to pivot supply chains and grow domestic demand. Credit and liquidity risk exposures will also be pertinent. While Indonesia, India, and the Philippines may face the near-term risk of local outbreaks, their economies are among the most insulated from a longer-term growth perspective. Indeed, the Asian Development Bank's recent scenario analysis (chart 2 & 3) indicates that these markets are likely to experience the lowest impact on GDP growth, regardless of timescale.
Source: ADB, Manulife Investment Management, as of 8 April, 2020.
Source: ADB, Manulife Investment Management, as of 8 April, 2020.
Near-term newsflow may be negative, particularly as these markets deal with domestic outbreaks. However, the impact of the COVID-19 must also be viewed in a longer-term context. To this end, we believe Southeast Asia should emerge from the pandemic with resiliency.
Transitioning to India’s next stage of growth
India’s growth agenda is well embedding the primary driver of digitisation that supports the formalisation and reinvestment policies underpinning manufacturing expansion. This is starting to show results with visibly improved capital expenditure and industrial order books, as well as a narrowing current-account deficit and a healthier inflationary picture.
Bank of Japan tweaks its yield curve control policy: market implications
The Bank of Japan’s recent decision to fine-tune its yield curve control policy may have caught investors off guard; however, the bigger surprise could be that the adjustment was less hawkish than expected.
Q&A with the Portfolio Manager: Global Healthcare Equities
COVID-19 is largely behind us in terms of a global health crisis and a hard hit to global financial markets. Yet, amid a widely predicted economic recession, the world is adjusting to the post-pandemic era. In this Q&A, we highlight how our Global Healthcare Team adopts a differentiated approach by triangulating its investment thesis and quantifying key inputs into the investment framework.
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