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Is PREMX a Strong Bond Fund Right Now?

Zacks Equity Research logoZacks Equity Research 6/25/2019 Zacks Equity Research

If you've been stuck searching for International Bond - Emerging funds, consider T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Bond (PREMX) as a possibility. PREMX holds a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank of 2 (Buy), which is based on nine forecasting factors like size, cost, and past performance.

Objective

We note that PREMX is an International Bond - Emerging option, which is loaded with different choices. International Bond - Emerging funds focus on fixed income securities from a variety of emerging international markets. Typically, investors can expect exposure to economies like China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Indonesia, and many others. These funds are appealing because of their geographic diversification, but this can also mean that currency risk is a factor.

History of Fund/Manager

T. Rowe Price is based in Baltimore, MD, and is the manager of PREMX. Since T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Bond made its debut in December of 1994, PREMX has garnered more than $4.28 billion in assets. Michael J. Conelius is the fund's current manager and has held that role since December of 1994.

Performance

Obviously, what investors are looking for in these funds is strong performance relative to their peers. This fund has delivered a 5-year annualized total return of 3.58%, and it sits in the top third among its category peers. If you're interested in shorter time frames, do not dismiss looking at the fund's 3-year annualized total return of 4.83%, which places it in the top third during this time-frame.

When looking at a fund's performance, it is also important to note the standard deviation of the returns. The lower the standard deviation, the less volatility the fund experiences. PREMX's standard deviation over the past three years is 6.9% compared to the category average of 8.05%. The fund's standard deviation over the past 5 years is 6.78% compared to the category average of 8.41%. This makes the fund less volatile than its peers over the past half-decade.

Bond Duration

Modified duration is a measure of a given bond's interest rate sensitivity, so when judging how fixed income securities will respond in a shifting rate environment, it is an excellent figure to look at.

If you believe interest rates will rise, this is an important factor to look at. PREMX has a modified duration of 6.63, which suggests that the fund will decline 6.63% for every hundred-basis-point increase in interest rates.

Income

Income is often a big reason for purchasing a fixed income security, so it is important to consider the fund's average coupon. This metric takes a look at the average payout by the fund in a given year. For example, this fund's average coupon of 6.48% means that a $10,000 investment should result in a yearly payout of $648.

While a higher coupon is good for when you want a strong level of current income, it could present a reinvestment risk if rates are lower in the future when compared to the initial purchase date of the bond.

Income is only one part of the bond picture, investors also need to consider risk relative to broad benchmarks. PREMX carries a beta of 1.07, meaning that the fund is more volatile than a broad market index of fixed income securities. With this in mind, it has a positive alpha of 1.24, which measures performance on a risk-adjusted basis.

Ratings

Investors should also consider a bond's rating, which is a grade ( 'AAA' to 'D' ) given to a bond that indicates its credit quality. With this letter scale in mind, PREMX has 33.72% in medium quality bonds, with ratings of 'A' to 'BBB'. The fund's junk bond component-bonds rated 'BB' or below-is at 62.26%, giving PREMX an average quality of BBB. This means that it focuses on medium quality securities.

Expenses

Costs are increasingly important for mutual fund investing, and particularly as competition heats up in this market. And all things being equal, a lower cost product will outperform its otherwise identical counterpart, so taking a closer look at these metrics is key for investors. In terms of fees, PREMX is a no load fund. It has an expense ratio of 0.91% compared to the category average of 1.12%. From a cost perspective, PREMX is actually cheaper than its peers.

Investors need to be aware that with this product, the minimum initial investment is $2,500; each subsequent investment needs to be at least $100.

Bottom Line

Overall, T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Bond ( PREMX ) has a high Zacks Mutual Fund rank, strong performance, average downside risk, and lower fees compared to its peers.

Your research on the International Bond - Emerging segment doesn't have to stop here. You can check out all the great mutual fund tools we have to offer by going to www.zacks.com/funds/mutual-funds to see the additional features we offer as well for additional information. If you want to check out our stock reports as well, make sure to go to Zacks.com to see all of the great tools we have to offer, including our time-tested Zacks Rank.

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