Foreign flows into emerging Asian bonds turned negative for the first time in four months in January, data from Malaysia and others showed, suggesting that a shift away from a tightening bias for regional central banks is dimming the attraction of its debt.
Foreigners sold a net $3.27 billion worth of bonds last month, the highest since June 2018, data from central banks and bond market associations in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and India showed.
The five markets attracted $10.1 billion worth of foreign money in 2018.
Most Asian central banks raised their policy rates last year in an effort to defend their currencies and curb capital outflows as the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked interest rates four times.
At the start of this year, however, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell adopted a cautious approach in a signal that the tightening phase might be coming to an end amid rising risks to growth.
The slowdown in global growth and pressure from trade frictions have also prompted Asian central banks to signal a more accommodative policy stance, which in turn has diminished the appeal for the region's bonds.
South Korean bond markets led the region with an outflow of $3.36 billion, followed by Malaysia with $574 million.
"With the pause in U.S. interest rates and the Bank of Korea unlikely to be hiking interest rates again anytime soon given the challenging domestic economic outlook, the debt outflows appear to be due to a switch in positioning by investors, following strong inflows in 2018," said Khoon Goh, ANZ's Head of Asia Research in a report.
Thai and Indian bonds also saw outflows of $336 million and $181 million, respectively, last month.
Bucking the trend, Indonesian bonds received inflows of $1.2 billion after an outflow in December.
"A stable currency, proactive central bank stance and declining domestic inflation alongside attractive yields, helped to incite a strong return of foreign investment inflows to Indonesia's bond markets," said Mitul Kotecha, senior emerging markets strategist at TD Securities, said in a note. - Reuters