Forget the Federal Reserve. Most investors see emerging markets as the biggest risk to U.S. bond investors over the next year, according to a Fitch Ratings survey.
About 60% of the 74 senior fixed-income money managers surveyed saw a high risk that unfavorable developments in countries with developing economies could spread to U.S. bonds, the ratings service said in a statement today. Brazil and China were seen as the biggest risks, followed by Russia and Turkey. The survey was taken Oct. 9.
Emerging-market currencies and stocks have plunged in the past year as concerns about slowing growth in China and a multiyear recession in Brazil dovetailed with concern that interest rate increases by the Fed might trigger an investor exodus from higher-yield investments in riskier countries.
About 93% of the investors in the Fitch survey expected credit conditions for emerging-market companies to deteriorate in the coming year. The companies bonds had benefited in the past decade from investors searching for higher yields as U.S. interest rates remained near zero, a product of the 2008 financial crisis.
Emerging market stocks such as Brazil's Petrobras (PBR) - Get Report , widely held by U.S. pension funds for that reason, could be hurt significantly if those funds decide to reduce their holdings, said JP Smith, who worked at Deutsche Bank before leaving last year to start independent research firm Ecstrat.
In all, U.S. pensions hold about $144 billion of emerging-market stocks, according to the publication Pensions & Investments. The Texas teachers' fund has the most, followed by pensions for the University of California, the state of Connecticut and New York City.
Fitch itself sees emerging markets as a source of risk, following a tumble in oil and commodity prices that has curbed export income for countries that are heavy raw-materials producers, according to the statement.
In the third quarter alone, China's stock-market gyrations and the deepening of a recession in Brazil led investors to yank $6.5 billion from emerging-market exchange-traded funds, according to ETF.com.