So India has not joined emerging central banks’ rate-cutting spree . After recent rate cuts in Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Philippines and Colombia, and others signalling their worries over the state of economic growth, hawks are in short supply among the world’s increasingly dovish central banks. But the Reserve Bank of India is one.
Interest rate meetings are coming up this week in Turkey, South Africa and Mexico. Most analysts expect no change to interest rates in any of the three countries. But chances are, the worsening global growth picture will force policymakers to soften their tone from previous months; indeed forwards markets are actually pricing an 18-20 basis-point interest rate cut in South Africa.
It’s turning out to be a great year for emerging debt. Returns on sovereign dollar bonds have topped 10 percent already this year on the benchmark EMBI Global index, compiled by JP Morgan. That’s better than any other fixed income or equity category, whether in emerging or developed markets. Total 2012 returns could be as much as 12 percent, JPM reckons.
Taiwan and Philippines have joined the easing crew. Taiwan cut interbank lending rates for the first time in 33 months on Friday while Philippines lowered the rate it pays banks on short-term special deposits. Hardly surprising. Given South Koreas’s shock rate cut on Thursday, its first in over three years, and China’s two rate cuts in quick succession, the spread of monetary easing across Asia looks inevitable. Markets are now betting the Reserve Bank of India will also cut rates in July.
Emerging market investors may have got used to policy surprises from Turkey’s central bank but they don’t expect them from South Korea. Such are the times, however, that the normally staid Bank of Korea shocked investors this morning with an interest rate cut, the first in three years. Most analysts had expected it to stay on hold. But with the global economic outlook showing no sign of lightening, the BoK probably felt the need to try and stimulate sluggish domestic demand. (To read coverage of today’s rate cut see here).
These are not the best of times for emerging markets but some investors don’t seem too perturbed. According to Societe Generale, almost half the clients it surveys in its monthly snap poll of investors have turned bullish on emerging markets’ near-term prospects. That is a big shift from June, when only 33 percent were optimistic on the sector. And less than a third of folk are bearish for the near-term outlook over the next couple of weeks, a drop of 20 percentage points over the past month.
Just how miserable a month May was for global equity markets is summed up by index provider S&P which notes that every one of the 46 markets included in its world index (BMI) fell last month, and of these 35 posted double-digit declines. Overall, the index slumped more than 9 percent.
Indian markets are rallying this week as they price in an interest rate cut at the Reserve Bank’s June 18 meeting. With the country still in shock after last week’s 5.3 percent first quarter GDP growth print, it is easy to understand the clamour for rate cuts. After all, first quarter growth just a year ago was 9.2 percent.
India’s first-quarter GDP growth report was a shocker this morning at +5.3 percent. Much as Western countries would dream of a print that good, it’s akin to a hard landing for a country only recently aspiring to double-digit expansions and, with little hope of any strong reform impetus from the current government, things might get worse if investment flows dry up. The rupee is at a new record low having fallen 7 percent in May alone against the dollar — bad news for companies with hard currency debt maturing this year (See here). So investors are likely to find themselves paying more and more to hedge exposure to India.