The SkyBridge Alternatives conference, or Salt Asia, has blown into Singapore, with the dramatic weather in the region providing a metaphor to recent market volatility.
Some delegates had anecdotes of red-eye or delayed flights and hastily rescheduled meetings due to Typhoon Usagi, which passed by Greater China and the Philippines early this week.
One recounted a stressful experience of staying at a Singapore hotel close to where the Justin Bieber concert was staged on Monday night.
Also overheard from several sources was that Bank of America-Merrill Lynch's Asia capital introductions event – slated to take place over Monday and Tuesday in Hong Kong this week – was cancelled as a result of flight delays and cancellations.
In Singapore, however, the Salt Asia show did go on, where the main topic of conversation yesterday was not typhoons, but tapering – namely, the US Federal Reserve's flip-flop stance on whether it would end quantitative easing.
It has caused market volatility, particularly in emerging markets. Adam Levinson, chief investment officer of the Fortress Asia Macro Fund, notes that "emerging market countries first hated QE because of the inflows, and now they hate the unwind of QE because of the potential outflows".
Singapore-based Levinson, speaking during a panel on identifying opportunity sets in a risk-on, risk-off environment, adds: "The outflows are a lot worse. What we've seen in the last week of the aftermath of the untaper if you will, is a reprieve of this thematic."
Yet some individual markets have fared better than others, notes fellow panelist Danny Yong, chief investment officer of hedge fund Dymon Asia. "As much as some of the EM currencies have been hit, there has been a huge divergence in Asia as well."
While India and Indonesia have "been hit badly", they had large deficits, while "other, more well-managed economies" such as Korea and China have gone through economic reforms over the past decade.
"These two currencies have actually appreciated 3-4% [in] the same timeframe," says Yong. "Not everyone across the board [is] getting run over by tapering."
While he believes tapering will be inevitable, "Asia is not one-size-fits-all". Japan is a brighter spot, in which he and Levinson were "bearish the yen, bullish on Japanese equities last October", says Yong, who is based in Singapore.
"The second phase of Abenomics is going to start kicking in [in] the last quarter [of this year]," he predicts.
As uncertainty continues to shroud the US market, "you might want to hedge out a little bit by shorting certain US equities, but broadly speaking in Japan, I think we are on the cusp of the next wave".
In other parts of the globe, Levinson predicts: "Anything you would classify as frontier markets... will be fine, and I would suggest that their performance will look largely like they have in the last couple of years."