Emerging market central banks have clearly taken to heart the recent IMF warning that there is “an alarmingly high risk” of a deeper global growth slump.
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).
Emerging central banks that sold billions of dollars over the summer in defence of their currencies might soon be forced to do the opposite. Japan’s massive currency intervention on Monday knocked the yen substantially lower not only versus the dollar but also against other Asian currencies. The action is unlikely to sit well with other central banks struggling to boost economic growth and raises the prospect of a fresh round of tit-for-tat currency depreciations. Already on Monday, central banks from South Korea and Singapore were suspected of wading into currency markets to buy dollars and push down their currencies which have recovered strongly from September’s selloff. The won for instance is up 6.9 percent in October against the dollar — its biggest monthly gain since April 2009. The Singapore dollar is up 4.5 percent, the result of a huge improvement in risk appetite.