Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

JPMorgan Says Panama Bonds Are a Buy as Offshore Scandal Fades

  • Nation’s economy to be boosted by canal expansion, metro
  • IMF says Panama to grow the most in Latin America this year

Negative headlines triggered by the so-called Panama papers scandal earlier this year may have created an opportunity to buy the Central American nation’s sovereign bonds, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The bank raised its recommendation on the country to “overweight” from “marketweight”, saying that the bonds have under-performed this year, even as the economy remains a top performer.

“The real economic consequences of this fiasco are not going to be all that severe,” said Franco Uccelli, an emerging market analyst at JPMorgan. “Everything else that has been sustaining growth in the country is very much there, and is there to stay. If the bonds have underperformed as a consequence of some risk aversion related to the Panama Papers scandal, then you should be buying Panama.”

The leak in April of offshore financial records exposed billions of dollars in assets hidden in tax havens around the world, setting off a global scandal that embarrassed political and business leaders worldwide. Still, Panama’s economy is set to grow 6.1 percent this year, the fastest pace in Latin America, according to a forecast from the International Monetary Fund.

The recent inauguration of the expanded Panama canal and the construction of Panama City’s metro line will also help the country’s growth, according to JPMorgan. The nation’s dollar bonds have returned 9.8 percent this year, compared to 12 percent for emerging markets in the Bloomberg USD Emerging Market Sovereign Bond Index.

JPMorgan also raised Colombia to marketweight from underweight, citing less political uncertainty, higher oil prices and a current account gap that is narrowing faster than expected. The bank also raised Ecuador to overweight, again citing the improved outlook for oil.

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