Troublesome Trio in Emerging Markets Face Yield Spike Scare
(Bloomberg) -- Eight years ago, when the taper tantrum roiled emerging markets, the so-called Fragile Five of Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, India and Indonesia suffered the most. Another spike in U.S. Treasury yields is threatening to wreak havoc on at least three of those nations.
The Turkish lira, Brazilian real and South African rand led major global declines last week in the worst developing-nation currency selloff since late September. Those exchange rates have the highest one-week implied volatility in the world, with some analysts warning of more pain ahead.
“Higher U.S. interest rates leave all EMs vulnerable,” said Robin Brooks, chief economist of the Institute of International Finance in Washington. This is especially the case for “big current-account deficit countries like Turkey and places where fiscal expansion in 2020 causes markets to question funding needs in 2021. The latter affects Brazil and South Africa,” he said.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields surged last week to the highest in more than a year, leading traders to bring forward their expectations about how soon the Federal Reserve will tighten policy. For now, officials are stressing the central bank has no plans to raise interest rates given lingering weakness in the labor market. That will make Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments on Thursday at a Wall Street Journal event all the more interesting.
In the developing world, dollar-denominated and local bonds endured their worst month since March 2020, while stocks posted their biggest weekly decline in almost a year. MSCI Inc.’s emerging-market equity index slid below its 50-day moving average, indicating additional weakness may lie ahead. Meantime, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. gauge tracking volatility in developing-nation assets jumped last week by the most since early August. Even so, inflows to emerging-market exchange-traded funds accelerated last week.
Listen to the EM Weekly Podcast: Rising Yields Take Toll; China Congress
“In the absence of a more concerted effort to slow the spike in yields, emerging markets may remain under pressure,” said Ilya Gofshteyn, a senior strategist at Standard Chartered in New York. “Higher-yielding currencies will continue to be particularly adversely affected and duration across emerging markets is also likely to remain especially vulnerable.”
OPEC+ will meet on Thursday, setting the stage for another potential conflict between Russia and Saudi Arabia after last year’s oil-price war. The same day, Malaysian policy makers are forecast to keep their benchmark rate at a record low of 1.75%. Elsewhere, Turkey may report quickening inflation, while a purchasing managers’ index figure will provide a health check for South Korea.
What to Watch
- China’s National People’s Congress will hold its annual session on March 5, featuring President Xi Jinping and other top leaders. This year’s gathering marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. The event may last shorter than the regular two weeks because of the pandemic
- The proposed agenda includes an examination of the economy and the 14th five-year plan, Xinhua reported
- The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body whose annual meeting is held in conjunction with the NPC, will gather on March 4, according to Xinhua
- The meetings probably won’t set a GDP growth target but will emphasize “high-quality” growth considering Covid-19 is still widespread outside China, Iris Pang, an economist at ING in Hong Kong, wrote in a note
- The yuan is one of the best-performing currency in Asia this year
- U.S.-Saudi relations will be monitored after an American intelligence report implicated Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in approving the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an act President Joe Biden called “outrageous”
Nigeria’s central bank governor suggested the currency was devalued
- Governor Godwin Emefiele said the official exchange rate now stands at 410 per dollar. That’s 7.6% weaker than the rate of 379 published on the central bank’s website
- Brazilian lawmakers are slated to pick up the debate around emergency cash handouts
- The real is the worst-performing currency in Latin America this year
Bank Negara Malaysia:
- Malaysia’s central bank is forecast to keep its overnight policy rate at a record low 1.75% on Thursday. Traders are reducing bets on further easing amid a surge in global bond yields
- “Stringent social containment measures have dented Malaysia’s growth recovery trajectory,” Kanika Bhatnagar, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Bangalore, wrote in a client note. “Monetary policy will remain accommodative, with the central bank continuing with its purchases of government bonds and carrying out reverse repo operations”
- The ringgit has weakened 0.9% this year amid an extended lockdown and a delay in vaccine rollouts. At the same time, rising oil prices are starting to improve the outlook for the currency for emerging Asia’s only exporter of the commodity
- China’s manufacturing activity dropped further in February as the Lunar New Year holidays disrupted production, while travel restrictions to contain virus outbreaks cut spending on services
- PMI data released Monday showed manufacturing expanded in Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam last month, while it continued to shrink in Malaysia and Thailand. South Korea and Taiwan will report similar data Tuesday
- South Korea said Monday that exports rose for a fourth month in Febuary amid the global recovery. January industrial-production numbers are due Tuesday, and final fourth-quarter GDP figures are scheduled for Thursday
- The won has lost 3.3% this year
- Indonesia said on Monday that consumer prices rose 1.38% year-on-year in February. South Korea will publish CPI numbers Thursday, and the Philippines and Thailand on Friday
- Philippine real yields turned negative in January after CPI rose to the highest level in two years
- South Korea will post foreign reserves data Thursday, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines on Friday
Turkey’s economy outperformed all peers except China in the final quarter of last year, driven by lower interest rates and a credit binge that boosted domestic consumption while destabilizing the currency
Gross domestic product expanded 5.9% from a year earlier, faster than all G-20 nations except China’s 6.5%, data showed on Monday. The median of 20 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey was for 6.9% expansion.
- Read more: Policy Jitters Compound Lira’s Worst Week Since 2018 Crisis
- Russia’s purchasing managers’ index picked up in February to 51.5, the highest reading since April 2019
A reading of Brazil’s GDP on Wednesday is expected to show strong levels of growth in the final three months of 2020 as Latin America’s biggest economy recovered from the shock of Covid-19
- Traders will also monitor January industrial production figures, to be released on Friday, for signs of a comeback
- In Mexico, the central bank will probably raise its GDP growth forecasts for this year and next when it publishes its quarterly inflation report on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg Economics
Colombia’s February consumer price inflation figures are expected to show a contraction from a year earlier amid weak domestic demand
- The results may have an impact on investor expectations for the central bank to remain accommodative
Chile’s January economic activity fell 3.1% year-on-year, more than economists expected
- A reading of confidence will also be watched for signs of a comeback as vaccines are rolled out
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