​How emerging market stocks can weather Trump upset

Where do emerging markets stand in that global equation?

The Donald Trump upset happened, and emerging-market stocks are among the biggest losers amid turmoil across financial assets.

Expect any selloff to be short-lived, however. The reasons are straightforward: There’s too much cash out there, and it’s the end of the year.

Some of the biggest funds boosted their cash holdings as uncertainty about the election grew in the closing days of the campaign. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest survey of 171 funds holding assets of $443 billion, conducted between Oct. 7 and Oct. 13, showed the highest level of cash since the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Average mutual fund cash holding — 5.8%

That’s fear embodied. The issue, though, is that fund managers can’t afford to be seen holding an average of 5.8 percent of their money in cash when the year-end reporting period starts—they’re paid to invest, not to hold deposits. So invest they must, and must do so before the second week of December, when liquidity goes on vacation and adding holdings becomes near-impossible.

This means that the sharp drop in stocks will be followed by fund managers cheerfully putting their cash back into the market. 

Where do emerging markets stand in that global equation? Well, the BofA Merrill survey also indicated that managers haven’t been this overweight stocks in the developing world since early 2013. On average, they held 31% more shares exposed to emerging economies than was mandated by the indexes they follow.

Besides, the asset class was perhaps the one reacting most violently to either outcome, given the trade rhetoric expressed by Trump and Hillary Clinton. The MSCI Emerging Markets index was already down 2.6% by the time London trading started. It could go further, if recent history is a gauge.

Which also means these stocks will be among the most underpriced and attractive assets in the aftermath.

Ultimately, then, everything is likely to go approximately back where it was. First, get ready for a bit more pain. — Bloomberg Gadfly

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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