“It’s Black Wednesday for emerging markets,” one strategist warned and Thursday is not looking any better, as SocGen’s Berg warns “The rout in emerging markets could continue for some time, especially as the major global central banks have exhausted their ammunition in recent years, making it unlikely that they will rescue global markets this time around.” In fact, as Bloomberg reports, this year’s EM turmoil is already worse than in the same period in 1998’s Asian financial crisis (and EM FX is even worse).
The MSCI Emerging Markets Index dropped 3 percent to 692.76, the lowest close since May 2009.
More than $2 trillion has been wiped out from the value of developing-nation equities this year as the MSCI Emerging Markets Index slid 13 percent, the worst start to a year since data began in 1988. As Bloomberg reports, The drop has exceeded the 7.9 percent decline in the gauge in the same period in 1998 during the Asian financial crisis and the drop in 2009 amid the global financial crisis.
“We are now in the correction territory,” Don Townswick, director of equity products at Conning Inc. Indian stocks are on the cusp of a bear market, potentially joining the three out of every four major emerging stock markets that have fallen 20 percent from peaks.
But it’s not just stocks, EM FX markets are collapsing as traders are betting that it’s become too expensive for policy makers to continue defending exchange rates after investors and companies pulled $735 billion out of developing nations last year, according to the Institute of International Finance.
“With some losses already booked this year in their portfolios, investors will avoid risk as much as possible,” said Attila Vajda, managing director at Singapore-based advisory firm Project Asia Research & Consulting Pte. “Investors remain more pessimistic with the global outlook.”
And finally EM debt is tumbling.
The premium investors demand to hold emerging-market debt over U.S. Treasuries widened nine basis points to 481, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. indexes.
Central banks in emerging markets could follow counterparts in the developed world and become “market makers of last resort”, using unconventional monetary policies to try and stimulate their flatlining economies, according to Mexico’s central bank chief.
“Emerging markets need to be ready for a potentially severe shock,” Mr Carstens told the Financial Times. “The adjustment could be violent and policymakers need to be ready for it.”
Policymakers and economists have warned that heavy selling of EM stocks and bonds by international investors since the middle of last year threatens to provoke a credit crunch that would make it hard for EM companies to service their debts.
Many EM companies have filled up on cheap credit over the past decade, after a commodities boom and ultra-loose monetary policies led by the US Federal Reserve resulted in very low borrowing costs. As investors pull out, those costs are set to soar.
Mr Carstens said the required policy response from EM central bankers would stop short of outright “quantitative easing” or QE — the large-scale buying of financial assets undertaken by the Fed and other developed market central banks.
But it would include exchanging high risk, long-dated assets held by investors for less risky, shorter-dated central bank and government liabilities.