The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) -- The favorite safe havens have been the Swiss franc and the yen, but the policy response has encouraged some participants to look for an alternative.
Earlier this week, BBH Currency Strategy identified the attractiveness of Norway, which is a large net international creditor and has a robust economy.
New oil finds in the North Sea and the national oil company's large stake in new findings in the Gulf of Mexico also underscore the fundamental attractiveness of Norway.
Some investors appear to be increasingly looking at alternatives to the Brazilian real (BRL), which, while not a safe haven, is also seen as a crowded trade. It has benefited from high nominal rates and commodity exposure.
However, the policy response to the BRL's strength and the more general thrust of policy has tempered the earlier enthusiasm and is altering the perceptions of risk/reward.
Indonesia may be an interesting alternative to Brazil and has much to commend itself. It has reported solid growth of around 6.5% in the first half of this year. It enjoys a trade balance, but exports (as a share of GDP) tend to be smaller than other Asian countries, which might offer some insulation from the vagaries of the global economy.
Indonesian inflation was 4.6% year over year in July, down from 7.1% in January and thus back within the central bank's 4%-6% target. The appreciation of the nation's currency, the rupiah (IDR), may have helped temper the price pressures, and the government has also supplemented the domestic rice supply with imports.
The rupiah has appreciated about 5.2% year to date, making it the second best performing currency in the region after the Singapore dollar. In the past three months, the rupiah is essentially flat against the dollar, so the trade does not appear crowded with momentum traders.
The Indonesian two-year note yields about 5.25%. The five-year bond yields a little more than 6%. The five-year credit default swap is priced around 175 basis points. By comparison, Brazil, Mexico and France are around 163 basis points.
The Jakarta stock market has also done relatively well thus far this year. The 3.8% gain in local currency terms is the second best in the region behind the Philippines. Over the past month, it has fallen about 6.3%, which is among the smaller declines in the region. Foreign investors have sold about $900 million of Indonesian shares this month, during which foreigners took profits on equities through the region and the world.
The recent market turmoil has helped lift the dollar off the multiyear low set in early August near 8460 rupiahs. Technical studies suggest a dollar high is being approached but might not yet be in place. The near-term risk extends to 8600-8700 rupiahs, which may offer medium-term real investors a lower-risk opportunity to gain some exposure.
Marc Chandler has been covering the global capital markets in one fashion or another for nearly 20 years, working at economic consulting firms and global investment banks. Currently, he is the chief foreign exchange strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. Recently, Chandler was the chief currency strategist for HSBC Bank USA. He is a prolific writer and speaker and appears regularly on CNBC. In addition to being quoted in the financial press, Chandler is often a guest writer for the Financial Times. He also teaches at New York University, where he is an associate professor in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. While Chandler cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback;
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