Swiss bank Julius Baer & Co., which specializes in private banking, said Tuesday that it is bullish on American and Japanese stock markets but remains bearish on emerging market bonds.
"Money always goes in search of the highest return. It went to emerging markets over the past few years, because they had strong growth. But there will be a slowdown in capital inflows in the second half of the year due to the ongoing downward revision of growth expectations in most emerging economies," Mark Matthews, head of Research Asia for Bank Julius Baer & Co., told a press conference.
He likened global financial markets to beauty parades where popularity comes and goes. "Last year everyone wanted Chinese high- yield bonds, and snubbed Japanese stocks. This year it's the other way around."
As the U.S. economy firms and Japan's economy shows recovery signs, the Swiss bank suggested investors hold the two countries' equities rather than emerging market bonds, according to the bank' s 2013 mid-year global and regional economic outlook released on the press conference.
The bank bet on a stronger U.S. dollar in the second half, which will attract money from other currencies and lead to less liquidity in emerging markets.
The bank said there is growing evidence that the so called " Abenomics" is enabling significant and growth-boosting change in Japan. It forecast that the Japanese yen to fall to at least 105 per dollar this year, meaning that there is further upside for the Nikkei.
As for the Chinese economy, Kelvin Wong, the bank's equity analyst covering China and Hong Kong markets, said the economy has passed through its weakest point, but still faces downward pressures.
China's economic growth decelerated to 7.5 percent in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, down from 7.7 percent in the first quarter, according to data from the government's statistics bureau.
The Swiss bank said it expects the country's economic growth for this year and next to be around 7 percent, which would be the slowest since 1990.
The Hong Kong stock market will fare better than its mainland counterpart in the second half, with the Hang Seng Index fluctuating between 19,000 and 23,000 and the Shanghai Composite Index hovering between 2,000 and 2,300, according to Wong.
MACAO'S GAMING BUSINESS
Macao's casino industry remains Julius Baer's most preferred investment in Asia. "Robust demand, limited supply, rising wealth and continual influx of Chinese tourists bode well for the sector in the medium term," Wong said.
He added that given steady wage growth, low unemployment and overall strong economic performance across Asia, the share of disposable income that can be allocated to gaming is on the rise.
"The sector offers unusually good visibility on earnings," Wong said.
Market observers have taken note that anti-corruption campaign by the central government might deter some VIP revenues in Macao, but Wong said that the actual impact on the sector's margins will likely be minimal, as the industry focuses on growing the mass market.
"The mass market has been recording solid growth of over 25 percent in recent years, and its demand will be relatively more stable compared to VIP," Wong noted.