Inflation Debate Hits Emerging Markets as Pimco Stands Firm
People pass by an electronic board displaying stock activity at the Brasil Bolsa Balcao (B3) stock exchange in Sao Paulo. (Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg)

Inflation Debate Hits Emerging Markets as Pimco Stands Firm

Investors are about to get a snapshot of potential price pressures building across the developing world -- the fallout of the unprecedented stimulus that’s been unleashed to revive the global economy.

Heavyweights including Brazil, China and India will report inflation data this week against a backdrop of quickening growth that’s being fueled by months of easy money and fiscal largesse. Citigroup Inc.’s inflation-surprise index for emerging markets spiked last month to the highest since 2008, a sign investors may be underestimating the scale of the resurgence.

Inflation Debate Hits Emerging Markets as Pimco Stands Firm

Long the scourge of debt holders and a threat to currency stability, accelerating inflation has already spurred policy makers in Brazil and Russia to raise borrowing costs. The Czech central bank last week signaled it may follow suit in mid-year, while Turkey’s monetary authority has pledged to keep interest rates elevated until there is a significant slowdown in price gains.

“Inflation has reared its head as a key market narrative once again,” said Emily Weis, a Boston-based macro strategist at State Street Global Markets. “This is partly driven by concerns around extreme monetary accommodation, fiscal largess and their combined impact on the green shoots of recovery.”

Inflation Debate Hits Emerging Markets as Pimco Stands Firm

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The prospect of tighter monetary conditions in emerging markets hasn’t changed the calculus for many investors, with behemoths including Pacific Investment Management Co. and BlackRock Inc. focusing on growth instead. Developing-nation inflation remains near a record low, with the economic rebound making assets look “increasingly interesting,” according to Dan Ivascyn, Pimco’s group chief investment officer in Newport Beach, California.

Yet there’s a growing sense that the forces behind the recovery will eventually feed through to higher prices if left unchecked. One harbinger may be the rally in commodities, with a key index of raw materials jumping to a five-year high.

Inflation Point

“If the stimulus continues, at some point it will become inflationary,” said Sanjiv Bhatia, chief investment officer at Pembroke Emerging Markets in London. “At some point, we believe it will become a problem.”

For now, assurances from the Federal Reserve that inflation in the U.S. is unlikely to get out of control have supported the bulls. The Fed appears in no rush to raise rates, a move that would siphon capital out of emerging economies currently enjoying the windfall from U.S. stimulus.

The fact that major central banks currently view inflation as transitory should boost developing-nation currencies as a whole, according to Henrik Gullberg, a London-based macro strategist at Coex Partners Ltd.

However sticky the inflation outlook, some banks were placing wagers on different responses to it. Citi strategists suggested investors buy the Czech koruna against the Hungarian forint with policy makers in Prague likely raising rates in the coming months while Budapest looks past the price spike for now.

MSCI Inc.’s emerging-market currency index climbed to a record on Friday, while the related equity gauge posted its biggest two-day gain in almost two weeks. Risk assets are getting further support after U.S. job growth data significantly undershot forecasts.

“On the one hand, the valuations of growth stocks look meaningfully less demanding after recent underperformance coupled with earnings upgrades,” said Kate Moore, head of thematic strategy at BlackRock in New York. “On the other, rising inflationary pressures from the broad economic restart and low inventories should be supportive of cyclicals and commodity producers.”

Inflation:

  • Data on Tuesday is forecast to show China’s inflation accelerated to 1% in April from 0.4% a month prior, according to a Bloomberg survey
    • The offshore yuan climbed to its strongest since February last week
  • In Brazil, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey shows inflation probably accelerated to 6.74% in April
  • India’s consumer prices probably rose 4.1% from a year earlier in April, slowing from 5.52% the previous month
    • The slowdown is likely to be transitory as base effects turn unfavorable in May, Citigroup Inc. economists led by Johanna Chua wrote in a report
    • The rupee is the worst performer in Asia this quarter as the country battles its biggest wave of Covid-19 infections
  • Argentina and Israel will also release inflation figures

Other Events:

  • Turkey’s lira may face renewed pressure should current-account data on Tuesday show the deficit is widening. The shortfall widened to $3.8 billion in March, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg
  • Russia, Colombia and Poland will also announce current-account or trade balances
  • The central banks of Mexico, Chile, the Philippines, Chile, Peru and Uruguay are all expected to leave borrowing costs unchanged
  • Malaysia and the Philippines will probably report Tuesday that their economies remained in contraction during the first quarter, highlighting a growth divergence with Southeast Asian economies lagging behind northern counterparts, according to Bloomberg Economics
    • Tighter mobility curbs after a surge in coronavirus infections will also weigh on their outlooks this quarter
    • Benchmark stock indexes in both countries have fallen this year and are among the worst performers in Asia
  • South Korea reports its latest unemployment rate on Wednesday
  • In Colombia, a reading of retail sales for March comes on Thursday and first-quarter gross domestic product is due on Friday
    • The peso slid the most among emerging-market currencies last week amid anti-government protests, which a central banker warned will hurt the economic recovery

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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