Mobius: Fear of Volatility is Biggest Risk to Returns

Emerging markets guru Mark Mobius has said that while volatility creates opportunities for fund managers, investors get spooked and that threatens returns

Emma Wall 12 May, 2015 | 1:08PM
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Volatility may create investment opportunities – but it spooks investors, causing them to crystalise losses warns emerging markets veteran investor Mark Mobius.

Mobius, who has been investing in stock markets for three decades, said that market volatility was worse now than it has been in the past, thanks to quantitative easing. The Franklin Templeton fund manager was speaking at the Morningtar Investment Conference when he highlighted the huge volume of cash that has flooded global markets from money printing in the US, UK, Japan and now the Eurozone.

“In the last 11 years there have been three instances of market underperformance but right now we’re on the up,” he said.

“What threatens investors’ returns is volatility. We like volatility as fund managers because it creates buying opportunities but our clients don’t. Unfortunately the volatility index shows that market fluctuations are happening more often due to central bank policy. Investors will have to accept that there will be these bumps in the road.”

Derivatives at Alarming Levels

Alongside volatility – and investors’ lack of appetite for it – Mobius says derivatives pose the greatest threat to markets in the current world.

“The biggest threat we face are derivatives. There are $691 trillion in derivatives globally – but the global economic output is only $77 trillion. This seems an extremely high number,” he said.

Derivatives are instruments that professional investors use to try and boost returns. They are a contract between two or more parties on whether an underlying asset will rise or fall in value. The underlying asset could be a stock, bond, index, commodity or even interest rate. They are often used to “hedge” a particular asset in an investor’s portfolio – so if a fund manager owns a stock he may also take out a derivative contract betting that the stock will fall in value, so that in each instance he can benefit.

Where are the Opportunites?

Of the new companies floated on stock markets globally every year, 33% of them make their IPO in emerging economies. Mobius says that of these emerging market companies around 30% of them are suitable for investment. Liquidity issues rather than corporate governance concerns restrict him from taking a stake in the rest.

The high number of new companies entering the emerging market universe should act as a guide for what proportion of your portfolio should be invested in the sector says Mobius.

Of the emerging and frontier markets, Mobius says Africa offers investors the greatest opportunities in the current market environment. Eight out of the top 10 fastest growing economies last year where African, thanks to supportive fundamentals – young populations, commodity rich and technology savvy.

“So much of Africa’s resources are untapped – both commodity resources and human resources,” he said “I think that Africa will soon emerge as the manufacturing hub of the globe.”

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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Emma Wall  is former Senior International Editor for Morningstar

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