The big selloff in bonds has caused a wipeout in emerging markets. The sector, which has seen broad turmoil this year, just witnessed its biggest selloff since March. That fact is quite eye-opening given that the period includes all the worries over Turkey. The big losses have largely been driven by the appreciating Dollar, which hurts EM economies and assets. With the US economy going so well and the Fed likely to increase the pace of hikes, EMs look vulnerable. The MSCI EM Index fell 2% today.
FINSUM: There are some idiosyncratic problems, but EM economies don’t look as weak as this year’s market performance would suggest. It is really US strength that is hurting EM assets.
Something very interesting is happening on Wall Street. Just when US outperformance over global assets has been peaking, US analysts are urging clients to move their money into emerging markets. The catalyst for the recommendations is that the Fed’s tightening cycle is getting more intense, which means US equity values might be peaking before a downturn. That, coupled with currently weak emerging market valuations, means EMs seem to have better upside.
FINSUM: We see the argument, but must disagree. There are two reasons why. Firstly, emerging markets have tended to do badly in periods of rising US rates, and secondly, because EMs will feel the pinch of the trade war, which means their economies are likely to be hurt even more than the US’.
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.
The big rout in emerging markets is starting to look like a full blown crisis. So far the US has proven itself immune to the turmoil, but the contagion is spreading, according to both JP Morgan and BlackRock. The pair say that a herd mentality has taken hold and that investors are indiscriminately selling emerging market assets, so matter what the value or long-term outlook. Even those with holdings that look strong are selling for fear of getting trampled by the rest of the herd, thus feeding the cycle further.
FINSUM: The big selloffs now include not only Argentina and Turkey, but South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia. Given the Fed’s hawkishness and trade wars roaring, there is no end in sight for the turmoil.
A couple of weeks ago investors seemed ready to accept that the brief emerging markets selloff was just a minor Turkey-induced tantrum, but would not blossom into something worse. Well, that view seems to be waning, as the selloff in EMs has spread and is starting to have all the hallmarks of a full crisis. One analyst summarized the situation this way, explaining that this has all the hallmarks of an EM crisis: “a large dose of debt and an associated domestic credit bubble, including misallocation of capital into uneconomic trophy projects or financial speculation. Then add: a weak banking sector, budget deficits, current-account gaps, substantial short-term foreign-currency debt and inadequate forex reserves”.
FINSUM:EMs are facing a lot of headwinds, but the economies in most of them seem healthy, so hopefully the problems will be contained to just the most troubled (e.g. Turkey and Argentina).