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Bank analysts say higher yields make emerging markets stocks attractive post-Brexit

The bullish case for emerging markets
Why JPMorgan is overweight on emerging markets

The market wobbles since the Brexit vote offered a buy signal for emerging markets (EM) stocks, some analysts said.

And the finger was being pointed squarely at the negative yields on developed markets bonds.

Following the turmoil of the U.K.'s vote to exit the European Union (EU), the combined value of bonds with negative yields jumped to $11.7 trillion, according to a Fitch Ratings report on June 29, marking a 12.5 percent increase since the end of May.

As the Brexit turmoil sent investors fleeing to safe-haven sovereign debt, Japanese bonds maturing in 40 years yielded less than 0.10 percent, while investors paid for the privilege of lending short-term money to Spain and Italy, countries where fiscal profligacy had sparked a crisis only a few years ago.

That made emerging markets equities look good by comparison, analysts said.

"While yields in emerging markets have also come down, they remain considerably higher than anything available in developed markets, and in quite a few cases are rather convincing from a risk-reward perspective," Taimur Baig, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a report titled, "Brexit's loss could be EM's gain," on July 1.

"Economies like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Turkey have their economic, structural, and political issues, but their relative attractiveness is considerable in this negative yield environment," he said.

"These economies will, in all likelihood, deliver higher nominal gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates than their developed market counterparts, which should manifest in higher revenue and profit growth, making a strong case for their equity markets."

That view was echoed by JPMorgan.

"In an emerging market context, you've had commodity stocks absolutely hammered, energy stocks absolutely hammered, exporters absolutely hammered. You have expectations that are very low and market positioning that is very underweight emerging market equities to begin with," James Sullivan, head of Asia-Pacific equities research at JPMorgan, told reporters on June 29. "Then you add into that the overall macro perspective from a rate perspective."

He noted that there were 11 emerging markets where JPMorgan expected significant rate cuts, compared with many developed markets where central banks effectively were no longer able to use interest rates as tools.

Cristian Baitg | E+ | Getty Images

That's why Sullivan was positive on yield-oriented emerging market stocks such as telecommunications, utilities and real-estate investment trusts (REITs).

"If you're in a low growth environment and people are cutting rates, then yield outperforms," he said.

Others were also putting in their two-bits in favor of emerging markets.

Mark Jolley, equity strategist at CCB International Securities, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday that negative interest rate policies in Japan and Europe were set to continue driving fund flows into emering markets and peripheral developed markets such as Australia.

"Australia doesn't look that great at the moment, emerging markets don't look that great, but relative to these places which are offering negative yield, they look quite good so I think you'll continue to see people buying that market for yield," Jolley said.

Nomura was also more positive on emerging markets in the wake of the Brexit vote, upgrading Southeast Asian markets as a result.

"In a post-Brexit environment where we expect greater policy accommodation (from the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and local central banks), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) should thus continue to outperform," the bank's analysts said in a note on July 1.

"We expect a period of inflows on the back of lower return expectations in Europe and Japan. Within Asia, Asean countries have among the lowest trade linkages and stocks markets' revenue exposure to Europe," it added.

Nomura raised its recommendation on Malaysia to overweight and recommended Indonesia as its "top overweight" in the region.

To be sure, the pivot toward emerging markets wasn't absolute. Deutsche Bank's Baig, for one, said he was cautious on emerging Europe because the region was likely to be affected by Brexit fallout due to strong trade and financial ties to the European Union.

And Goldman Sachs didn't appear to be fully convinced, cutting its target for the MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index in a note dated July 1. Goldman set its index targets at 395, 400 and 430 on a three-, six- and 12-month basis, down from 420, 420 and 425 previously.

While Goldman estimated that Asia's economic growth would only take a hit of about 10 basis point from the Brexit, it noted that "second-order" impacts, such as greater uncertainty weighing domestic spending, could further shave growth in the region.

That was likely to weigh on markets in Asia, the bank added.

"Regional equity markets have historically been closely correlated with those in Europe," it said, estimating the downside risk from a contraction in risk appetite could be 5-10 percent reduction in value for Asia's stock markets.

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—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter