Emerging markets are not in crisis – the market itself is wrong argues Ashmore’s Dehn

11th September 2013

Emerging markets are no more vulnerable to the end of quantitative easing than developed ones and the market has simply got things wrong argues Jan Dehn, Head of Research at Ashmore.

In a slightly exasperated sounding note sent to investors issued this week, Dehn argues: “Last week saw two more countries enter the JP Morgan EMBI GD index, the main Emerging Markets bond index, which now covers 60 countries.

“The investable universe is far larger. Yet, despite this enormous and diverse universe, the market typically tends to focus on just one or two countries and extrapolate to the entire asset class. This is simplistic, irrational, and inefficient.

He says that it is encouraging that sentiment about emerging markets slowly improved last week despite rising US treasury yields.

He adds that countries such as India and Brazil, which only weeks ago were labelled as crisis countries have successfully stabilised their currencies although others such as Turkey and Indonesia still have work to do. He says that investors should continue to manage exposures actively, because there are naturally always differences in credit quality across such a vast investment universe, one now worth USD 14trn.

“Emerging Markets are not in crisis. Not even close. They are not more vulnerable to Fed tapering than developed economies and their fundamentals are not seriously deteriorating. In fact, Emerging Markets fundamentals are improving in most countries, aided in part by the pickup in global manufacturing. The summer sell-off has predominantly been technical in nature. Last Friday’s US payrolls reminded us that the real economic challenges are still in the HIDCs (Heavily Indebted Developed Countries”.

“The investment universe in Emerging Markets continues to increase. While the investable universe far exceeds the narrower confines of the market’s preferred benchmark indices, it is nevertheless important that indices continue to grow in line with the actual market. It was therefore encouraging that last week the external debt universe reached another important milestone, when the JP Morgan EMBI GD index welcomed its member states numbers 59 and 60”.

Dehn then breaks his note down into an assessment of several countries.

India 

Raghuram Rajan, former IMF Chief Economist, last week took over as governor of the Reserve Bank of India. His first actions included liberalisation of the banking sector and opening Dollar funding facilities. Fuel subsidies also look likely to be cut back further, which will help both the fiscal balance and the trade account. On Friday, Japan and India also announced that their joint swap line of USD 15bn will be increased to USD 50bn.

The announcements, which were accompanied by a strong commitment to managing inflation, triggered a sharp turnaround in INR, which rallied from 68.60 to 65.25 against the US Dollar. In our view, India does not have a crisis. Rather India is in need of macroeconomic adjustment to restore external and internal equilibria, which require currency adjustment and domestic demand discipline. India is undertaking both. Under Rajan this will be done more effectively, in our view. However, we believe that realising India’s true growth potential will also require deeper supply-side reforms. India’s real economy is growing at a speed of 4.4%.

Brazil 

Banco Central do Brasil, the other large Emerging Markets central bank to flex its FX muscles, saw strong positive returns to intervention, when BRL rallied from a low of 2.45 against the US Dollar to 2.29 by the end of last week. Like India, Brazil does not have anything even approximating a crisis and also has very strong structural foundations.

Turkey, Indonesia 

In contrast with India and Brazil, sentiment continues to be negative about Turkey and Indonesia. Their central banks have yet to take sufficiently forceful measures to reassure currency markets. This is not altogether surprising. Turkey’s approach to monetary policy has become increasingly heterodox over the past few years.

Indonesia has historically been reluctant to implement decisive policy moves until pushed to do so by the market. We think it is unlikely that Turkey and especially Indonesia will experience outright crises, because both have plenty of means to stabilise their markets. However both countries require some macroeconomic adjustment and the longer they delay the bigger the eventual adjustment required.

Our view is that Turkey and Indonesia’s challenges are of their own making. Their challenges do not extend to the wider Emerging Markets universe. Indeed, we see few signs of stress in most other countries in the Emerging Markets universe.

 Mexico

Mexico responded to its cyclical slowdown by cutting policy rates 25bps to 3.75%, underlining the country’s considerable scope to manage its cycle using regular policy instruments. We expect the government to push ahead with key reforms in the oil and electricity sectors as well as fiscal reform later this year.

China

In China, the State Council pushed ahead with further institutional changes aimed at speeding up the country’s ambitious reform agenda. In August PBOC was awarded a mandate to coordinate financial regulations and this week NDRC was saddled with coordination of reforms to improve central government efficiency, cutting red tape, etc.

 Poland

The Polish government announced a long-awaited pension reform, which will see the government pension fund take over all private sector pensions’ holdings of government securities. These government bonds will be annulled, thus producing a sharp decline in the government debt to GDP ratio from about 55% of GDP to about 48% of GDP. We do not expect Poland’s 10% capped weighting in the JP Morgan GBI-EM GD index to be materially affected.

Dehn notes that the global market place remains extremely focused on the FOMC meeting on 18 September and a possible announcement later this month about succession at the Fed.

“Panning out to the global manufacturing picture, global PMIs improved significantly according to the latest slew of fresh PMI data releases. As we noted in our discussion of last month’s round of PMI data releases the improvements in US and European PMIs observed in July boded well for Emerging Markets PMIs.1 Sure enough, in August global PMIs rose to the highest level since June 2011 with broad advances not just in developed, but also in Emerging Markets. China’s PMI rose to a 16 month high. PMIs also rose elsewhere in Asia, with a few notable exceptions such as India. In Latin America Mexican and Brazilian PMIs rose, while Eastern Europe’s PMI indices also saw a broad-based pick up. The pick-up in Emerging Markets manufacturing is of course not consistent with the market’s very negative view of Emerging Markets growth prospects. We think the market is wrong,” he adds.

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