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Europe is the place for intl bonds

New York-based chief executive of Fischer Francis Trees and Watts Liaquat Ahamed says returns from global bonds will be much lower than they have in the past.

Friday, November 7th 2003, 6:50AM
"We have had a 21 year bull market in bonds."

Ahamed, who was in New Zealand earlier this week, says that a bond portfolio hedged back to the Kiwi dollar should be doing about 5-6% compared to previous levels of 8-9%.

"Yields are low and on the way up," he says.

He also warns investors that they may make "modest capital losses."

Looking at the various markets Ahamed says that both the United States and the Japanese economies are in a recovery mode and growing.

"It looks like the (US) economy is back on the move. It’s the same sort of story for Japan."

However, the story in Europe is totally different: "There is still no glimmer of activity."

"Being bond guys we love weak markets and hate strong economies."

Therefore the major opportunity for bond managers is Europe.

Ahamed says the US market is at a turning point and there is a lot of interest in how the Federal Reserve will handle the transition.

He reckons that the Fed will hold rates for at least another 12 months.

"There is absolutely no hurry to tighten."

However he thinks the bond market will sell off in front of any Fed easing.

He says there is a risk people will over-react to announcements from the US central bank so it is likely to prepare the market well in advance of any rate hikes.

Ahamed says there is a cyclical bear market in the United States and Japan and that the opportunities have passed in the corporate debt market.

He says corporate bonds have been a fantastic opportunity in the past year but that is over as spreads have narrowed dramatically.

"You do not want to be chasing corporate bonds at this level."

Fischer Francis manages money for Guardian Trust Funds Management.

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