Emerging markets have gone off the boil since April

Emerging markets have gone off the boil since April
EM markets have gone off the boil in April despite strong but slowing growth
By Ben Aris in Berlin May 16, 2018

Emerging markets have gone off the boil since April as growth peaks, geopolitical instability wracks the globe and the US Federal Reserve bank tightening cycle gets underway.

Net inflows into emerging markets (EMs), especially Russia, have turned negative in the last month, report analysts, although the sell off has not been as severe as earlier crisis-related routs.

“EM financial markets have steadied today, but the moves over the past few weeks have been relatively large compared with the other Fed-related sell-offs over the past 18 months. That said, this sell-off has been much less severe than those driven by rising US Treasury yields that occurred between 2013 and 2015, reflecting the fact that EMs’ economic vulnerabilities have declined since then,” the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said in a note on May 14.

The think tank blames the sell off on recent Fed rate hikes and the anticipation of more to come this year, making US securities more attractive and pulling money out of the riskier EM securities. The current sell off is the worst in one and half years, says IIF.

“Among the EMs in our sample, currencies have fallen by an average of 3.7% while bond yields have risen by 30bp since the sell-off started. These are among the largest moves since 2015. (The figures would look worse if we included Argentina. We exclude it as its exchange rate was heavily managed before 2016.),” IIF said in a note.

And the sell off is broad based with every currency in EMs having fallen against the dollar while all local bond yields have risen (except in China). The last time that happened was during the so-called Taper Tantrum in May 2013.

“Yields on two-year local currency bonds of the EMs in our sample rose by an average of about 100bp and currencies fell by 6%-7% against the dollar during the Taper Tantrum. There were similar moves during the sell-off in late 2014, although that was exacerbated by the collapse in oil prices,” IIF said.

The sell off has been made worse by a slowing of growth in EMs and especially in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), although overall growth remains strong. Romania has already reported a mild slowdown in growth for the first quarter and Russia’s central bank also cut the second quarter outlook for growth to 1.4%.

“The first quarter GDP data from Central Europe should support our view that growth has already peaked and that the region’s economies will slow gradually over the course of this year,” Capital Economics said in a note.

“In Poland, the pace of expansion appears to have been unchanged from Q4, growing at around 5% y/y. But in Hungary and the Czech Republic, it looks like growth slowed a touch. It appears that the Hungarian economy expanded by around 4.3% y/y, down from 4.9% y/y in Q4, while we think that GDP growth in the Czech Republic softened from 5.5% y/y to 4.5% y/y in the first quarter,” Capital Economics added. 

Turkey and Romania, two economies that are showing clear signs of overheating, are likely to experience the sharpest slowdowns in growth, according to the consultant.