02.14.2012
By Terry Flanagan

LatAm Traders Reach Home Base

Latin America continues ease market access for foreign capital, and in the process, garners home bias from local participants.

Throughout the 1980s, U.S. capital flow to foreign markets averaged roughly U.S. $50 billion per year. Such levels have risen greatly to pre-financial crisis times; outflows to foreign capital markets increased to reportedly $2.1 trillion in 2007. While net inflows dipped by approximately 75% during the financial crisis, the emerging markets today have bounced back at a healthier rate than the sluggish developed economies of the U.S and Europe.

Due to its macroeconomic and private-sector growth, as well as its ease of market access, U.S. investors and traders have come to favor Latin America. Currently, a reported $57 million of U.S. dollar is being poured into Brazil—often seen as the nation’s most developed region.

Mexico comes in second with approximately $20 million coming in from the U.S. last year. Local entities have poured interest in Mexico as well, as Mexican pensions, which aggregate $150 million, have a primarily domestic mandate. Carlos Slim, the world’s richest investor, also recently announced plans to surge a $10 billion peso investment in Mexico’s telecom industry.

As a result of budding local and foreign interest, LatAm’s sell side has gone to work in building a “best-of-breed” suite of products to help provide access to Mexico. The Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, the country’s equity exchange and its derivatives exchange, MexDer are channeling efforts to better technology and infrastructure to attract liquidity providers. Yet, just how effective is the push to be better?

In 2011, MexDer experienced a 30% increase of trades to roughly 43,000 a day. Mexican brokerage assets were $21.4 million in 2005, to $2 billion in 2011–a clear reap of rewards from the sell side’s efforts to host opportunities for market participants.

While high frequency traders increased their activity in Mexico by 105% in 2011, buy-side views on trading via local resources have been mixed.

“Local knowledge on the part of on-the-ground brokers and exchanges is useful, but, it’s not essential to have a well developed sell side,” said Nick Robinson, director of the $250 million dollar Aberdeen Latin American Equity Fund. “As long as the market works and you can use the market without counter party risk then that should give (participants) enough comfort.”

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