QIC Talks Up Quantitative Investment in Asian Markets

According to QIC, the institutional investment manager, “big gains” can be made with quantitative investment strategies in Asian emerging markets.

“Emerging markets have been the focus of plenty of attention in the past few years; however, for a host of reasons investing in them has been a hit-and-miss affair,” explained QIC Quantitative Management managing director Michiel Swaak. “But more recently the situation has changed. Better, more consistent accounting standards mean the quality of data coming out of Asian markets has improved dramatically, providing the raw material required to establish meaningful models and identify opportunities that are most likely to deliver consistent alpha for investors.”

QIC first launched its quantitative Asia Pacific Market Neutral Fund in the summer of 2009, which has since proved especially lucrative.

 “We firmly believe that quant players have the jump on the market for a number of reasons. In our case, in addition to our extensive research and analysis capability, our team has many years of dedicated Asian experience,” Swaak said. “We’ve used that to develop a systematic trading process, which captures the relevant data as the markets continue to evolve, then feeds it into our flexible portfolio management infrastructure.”

QIC’s report states that the fund applies “comprehensive risk controls to all aspects of the portfolio, including net, gross, country, single-stock, currency, beta and risk factor exposures” in order to reach market neutrality.

“We believe our approach forms the blueprint for successful alpha investing in Asia, and we’re pleased to be able to offer an Australian dollar-denominated investment to Australian clients while we still retain the first-mover advantage,” Swaak said.

EU Debt Crisis May Not Hinder Asian Businesses

Asian businesses are feeling more secure thanks to lessons from the global financial slump and recovering U.S. banks. Analysts have admitted that while an all-out Eurozone crisis may affect demand for Asian products, exporters throughout the region are less likely to suffer as much as they did in 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

“The importance of trade finance to the global economy is better understodd now than in 2008,” explained Mark Williams of Capital Economics. “One of the factors that contributed to the recovery in 2009 was the $250 billion of trade-finance guarantees announced… In the event of a second global financial crisis, future guarantees are likely to be forthcoming.”

Often compared to the oil that greases a machine, trade finance is a key component in an economy. EU banks’ exposure to it in Asia is surprisingly high, relative to their loans in the region. Williams pointed out, however, that the Bank of International Settlements revealed that Eurozone banks are responsible for a mere 2.3% of total credit in the emerging Asia. Meanwhile, they have a 47.3% share of lending in emerging Europe, and 17.1% in Latin America.

The recent developments in trade finance have encouraged banks to increase interest rates.

“The reality is spreads have gone up fairly significantly- almost to the 2008 peak levels- over the last six weeks… But the higher spreads are here to stay,” said Ravi Saxena of Citibank.

Asian Markets Take Hit as Recession Worsens

Though the debt crisis has struck the U.S. and EU with fervor, Asian markets have seen some major hits recently as well. The selloff is a result of global recession concerns, as well as worries regarding the financial fragility and cash crunch.

“The way markets are trading, people are anticipating some kind of falling off the cliff,” said Wendy Liu, head of China research for Royal Bank of Scotland. “These valuations don’t come every year.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index has fallen 23% over the past year, which includes a 12% drop just this month. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index, which tracks all markets throughout Asia, has seen a decrease of 24% this year.

Despite the drawbacks, the Asian economies have recorded solid growth. Until quite recently, central banks were raising interest rates in an effort to lessen inflation.

According to Markus Rosgen, head of Asia Pacific Equity Strategy at Citigroup in Hong Kon, “Markets in Asia are telling you there is going to be global recession.” He added that stocks are pricing in an approximately 33% drop in corporate earnings.

Ewen Cameron Watt of BlackRock backed this, stating “The degree of selloff in emerging-market debt and equities and currencies suggest there is something more than a concern about slowing economies at play here.”