Fixed-income investors can tap into the emerging market through a number of ETF options. For instance, the iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (NYSEArca: EMB) and more recently launched the VanEck Vectors EM Investment Grade + BB Rated USD Sovereign Bond ETF (NYSEArca: IGEM) provide exposure to U.S. dollar-denominated emerging debt securities, or developing country bonds issued in U.S. dollars. The USD denomination can help support these funds in case of a sudden appreciation in the greenback. EMB has a 4.58% 30-day SEC yield and IGEM has a 3.51% yield to maturity.
“Adding U.S. dollar-denominated investment grade emerging markets bonds to a global bond portfolio can add yield and diversification, without a significant increase in credit and currency risk,” Sokol said.
While the emerging markets may be associated with greater risk, these bond ETF options include a mix of high-quality debt exposure, limiting potential credit risks. For example, EMB includes 2.2% investment-grade AA-rated debt, 11.9% A and 42.8% BBB. IGEM includes a slightly larger percentage of investment-grade exposure, with 2.1% AA, 16.7% A, 58.8% BBB.
With many emerging market central banks cutting interest rates amid lower inflation, the loose monetary policies should help support many local rates markets. Investors may also take a look at local currency-denominated ETFs, or emerging market bond ETFs that are issued in their local currencies, including the VanEck Vectors Emerging Markets Local Currency Bond ETF (NYSEArca: EMLC) and actively managed WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund (NYSEArca: ELD). The local currency emerging market bond ETFs come with slightly higher yields. EMLC has a 5.49% 30-day SEC yield and ELD has a 5.61% 30-day SEC yield.
Moreover, they have slightly higher credit qualities. EMLC includes 5.8% AAA, 3.0% AA, 28.5% A and 34.1% BBB. ELD holds 6.6% AAA, 9.5% AA, 35.2% A and 38.5% BBB.
However, with all investments that may produce higher returns, investors should be aware of the potential risks.
“We see hard-currency EM debt providing a more stable income stream than local currency options,” Turnill said. “EM local debt may offer more upside, however, for those willing to accept currency risk.”