Fund managers pick up regional equity bargains

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 12:00am

A sharp fall in Asian markets has failed to deter fund managers from buying Asian equities, most of which have been oversold.

The volatile United States market has spread negative sentiment around the world, including major Asian markets, and most financial commentators say more gloom and doom lies ahead.

Asian-based fund managers have been caught fully invested in a falling market, but most say that instead of holding on to cash they are picking up good bargains.

Editor and publisher of The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report Marc Faber says US markets are now oversold and expects a rally to begin soon.

'So on a short-term basis, I would buy some index futures,' Mr Faber said.

Baring Asset Management Asian equities head Khiem Do said the fund house had been bargain-hunting in Hong Kong, China, Korea, Australia, India and Singapore.

Investec Asset Management managing director Stewart Aldcroft said: 'Although the Asian markets are coming down, many of them are just marginally down but not anywhere near as bad as the US.'

A Fidelity Investments Management spokesman said: 'We are having to keep a closer eye on market volatility as price targets for stocks, both to buy and to sell, are being hit more quickly.'

Banking-sector stocks were badly mauled last week after it was alleged that Citigroup and JPMorgan helped failed energy giant Enron disguise billions of dollars in loans as commodity trades.

Fund managers said long-term investment opportunities were ploughed by stock-picking investors.

Mr Do said rather than target a particular sector in the latest market correction, recent purchases were more stock-specific.

'We are targeting companies which already are on our radar screen, which we have fundamentally analysed and know well,' Mr Do said.

While some fund managers are already in the market for bargains, others are taking a wait-and-watch approach before buying, in case Asian markets decline further.

Credit Agricole Asset Management chief investment officer Ayaz Ibrahim said: 'We have a bit of cash but we are not dying to chuck it right in now. The ideal condition for Asia is stability in Wall Street.'

Mr Faber said Treasury markets and the US dollar were unattractive as they would weaken the equities rally. 'Long-term, I would sell Treasury bonds as inflation will come back. [Alan] Greenspan is the world's biggest money printer,' he said.

While Asian equities are gaining favour with fund managers, foreign investors are dwindling as a result of poor sentiment.

The amount of foreigners buying Asian equities has been drying up this year as a result of global risk aversion rather than concern over valuations or profitability, according to a recent Salomon Smith Barney report.

While Hong Kong and South Korea were the worst hit, the situation was reversed in Singapore.