There’s a saying about Mexico’s historic relations with its powerful and sometimes hegemonic northern neighbor that goes like this: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”
But being highly exposed to the U.S. economy right now, as Mexico is, has Japanese investors dumping the Australian dollar in favor of the Mexican peso.
“For now, the peso is the hottest currency out there,” Shinichiro Kadota, of Barclays in Tokyo, told the Financial Times.
Japanese retail investors are traditionally leaders in new currency market trends through uridashi bonds, so their shift to Mexico is considered a profound move away from their usual emphasis on the Australian dollar. Australia’s commodity-heavy economy benefits from China’s demand for resources, such as iron and coal, so investing in the country’s currency is usually considered a safe bet.
Australia’s central bank recently cut its interest rate to a record low 2.75 percent. Meanwhile, Japanese investors have been scaling back their Australian-dollar denominated funds. While the Aussie is still the No. 1 currency for uridashi issuances, at about 4.5 trillion yen in April, the Mexican peso is in second place and gaining ground with 1.2 trillion yen worth of issuances, according to Bloomberg. Last year, the pesos ranked ninth, according to the Financial Times.
So why this increased interest in Mexico’s currency from Japanese retail investors?
The main driver is the combined positive outlook for the U.S. economy, with a slowing of demand for resources from China.
The global markets were rattled late last month after U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested the U.S. might soon wind down quantitative easing, but aside from concerns by investors, the Fed’s outlook suggests the U.S. economy may be soon strong enough for better or worse to start raising interest rates again.
And in Mexico the macroeconomic outlook is largely positive thanks to reforms instituted by recently elected President Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico might find some historical downsides to being the poor neighbor to the U.S., but at least for now investors see its proximity to a resilient U.S. economy as a major plus.