The pain rippling through emerging markets has spread from Turkey and Argentina to Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Africa. Some are calling the major selloffs a full blown crisis. Now, a big threat looms as the trouble may spread to the big one: China. The major worry is that the pressure on EMs, coupled with rising US sanctions on China, could conspire to drive the Yuan down as much as 15%. Other EMs would be forced to weaken their currencies, and the pandemonium could hit the global economy and markets in a way it hasn’t so far.
FINSUM: China’s weight looms large not just in an economic sense, but in the market’s psychology. If real trouble started to flare up there, it would quickly spread to western markets.
There is a lot of turmoil going on in emerging markets right now. So much so that many are now considering it a full crisis. So far, though, the problems have yet to materially impact US markets. However, Barron’s explains that there is a mechanism through which EMs could cause trouble for the US and the rest of western markets. Because the trade war with China continues to escalate, the country’s yuan may devalue significantly, hurting all EMs. If this happens, the ripple effects through the global economy might be very strong. India and Mexico seem to be the safest EM destinations at present.
FINSUM: China is big enough to bring down the whole world economy, so the real threat here is the trade war first, and then how EMs compound that problem.
If we think the trade war is being rough on our markets, just take a look at China. The country’s benchmark Shanghai Index is down 22% since its peak in January, and the yuan is dropping as well. In addition to Trump’s rhetoric and the threat of a trade war, China is also seeing weakening domestic economic data.
FINSUM: China is a lot more exposed to the trade war than the US. It has less broad and deep financial markets, so there are not as many places for investors to hide, and its economy is much more export-reliant, making it more vulnerable to tariffs.
The Chinese stock market is now in a bear market and there is a great deal of pressure on its currency. Last time there was this much pressure, in 2015, the market broke, with stocks plunging and the yuan devaluing by 7% over the year. US stocks even plunged in fear. Now, the situation looks like it might occur again, causing some to call the yuan the next “big short”. The currency is already down almost 1% since Friday, and is in negative territory for the year. A burgeoning trade war with the US is adding pressure.
FINSUM: So the one big support for the yuan is the current strength of the Chinese housing market, which has been strong recently (a big contrast to 2015). That seems like it will keep a blow out from happening.
The US and China are currently in a hot-under-the-collar spat over trade. Each side is proposing to raise tariffs in response to the other, and there is no end in sight. Well, China may be changing gears and adding a new weapon—Yuan devaluation. Beijing is reportedly exploring how to use devaluation as a tool in a trade war. Weakening the Yuan would make Chinese goods cheaper to buy overseas and could be a tool to boost exports. At the same time, it makes it harder for Chinese companies to buy overseas goods.
FINSUM: While on paper it sounds promising, intentionally weakening the currency would give weight to claims (most loudly by Trump) that China is a currency manipulator, which could turn favor against Beijing.