Ecuador Defaulted Last Year. Now Its Bonds Are World’s Best

Across the world, government bondholders have seen losses pile up this year as a pickup in inflation and economic growth puts central banks under pressure to raise interest rates, Bloomberg News reported. That makes even more remarkable the windfalls seen in Ecuador, a junk-rated South American nation that was mired in recession even before the pandemic and was forced to restructure $17.4 billion of debt last year -- a step rating companies considered a default. The returns on the nation’s bonds have topped 28% this year, more than any other country, according to a Bloomberg Barclays index. It’s the result of a confluence of factors: a steady vaccination campaign, rising oil prices and optimism that the April election victory of President Guillermo Lasso, a former banker, will usher in a wave of market-friendly reforms. The gains stand in contrast to the experience of investors in other major Latin American countries that have seen political unrest or the rise of left-wing parties amid the economic toll of the pandemic. Neighboring Colombia this year was rocked by bloody protests over the president’s ill-fated tax hike plans. In Chile, a former student protest leader to the far left of the nation’s political spectrum is ahead in the presidential race. And Peru’s markets have been whipsawed as President Pedro Castillo, a former rural schoolteacher from a Marxist party, called for a new constitution and a briefly delayed the appointment of his finance minister. On Friday, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded El Salvador. Read more.