Inflation is finally biting Brazilian policymakers. The real strengthened around 1.5 percent last week without triggering the usual shrill outcries from government ministers. Nor did the central bank intervene in the currency market even though the real is the best performing emerging currency this year. The bank in fact shifted towards a more hawkish policy stance during its March meeting, a move that seems to have had the blessing of the government.
An action-packed week for emerging monetary policy.
First we had Poland stunning markets with a half-point rate cut when only 25 bps was priced. Governor Marek Belka said the double-cut marked a “full stop” after several cuts. Then came Brazil which kept rates on hold at 7.25 but turned hawkish after spending over 18 months in dovish mode. (Rates stayed on hold in Indonesia and Malaysia).
Could Hungary’s run of good luck be about to end?
Despite controversial policies, things have gone the country’s way in recent months — the easing euro crisis and abundant global liquidity saw investors flock to high-yield emerging markets such as Hungary and also allowed it to tap international capital for a $3.25 billion bond. It has slashed interest rates seven times straight, cutting them this week to a record low 5.25 percent. The result is an increased reliance on international bond investors. Foreigners’ share of the Budapest bond market is almost 50 percent, among the highest percentages in emerging markets.
Happy birthday EMBI! The index group, the main benchmark for emerging market bond investors, turns 20 this year. When officially launched on Dec 31 1993, the world was a different place. The Mexican, Asian and Russian financial crises were still ahead, as was Argentina’s $100 billion debt default. The euro zone didn’t exist, let alone its debt crisis. Emerging debt was something only the most reckless investors dabbled in.
All eyes on the Hungarian central bank this week. Not so much on tomorrow’s policy meeting (a 25 bps rate cut is almost a foregone conclusion) but on Friday’s nomination of a new governor by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Expectations are for Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy to get the job, paving the way for an extended easing cycle. Swaps markets are currently pricing some 100 basis points of rate cuts over the coming six months in Hungary — the question is, could this go further? With tomorrow’s meeting to be the last by incumbent Andras Simor, clues over future policy are unlikely, but analysts canvassed by Reuters reckon interest rates could fall to 4.5 percent by the third quarter, compared to their prediction for a 5 percent trough in last month’s poll.
Ten-year Indian bond yields have fallen 30 basis points this year alone and many forecast the gains will extend further. It all depends on two things though — the Feb 28 budget of which great things are expected, and second, the March 19 central bank meeting. The latter potentially could see the RBI, arguably the world’s most hawkish central bank, finally turn dovish.
The excitement continues over Russian assets becoming Euroclearable. Euroclear’s head confirmed last week to journalists in Moscow that corporate debt would be the next step, potentially becoming eligible for settlement within a month. Russian equities are set to follow from July 1, 2014.
A bond trader in London is still marvelling at the market’s willingness to snap up a Eurobond from Hungary, calling it a country with “a policy mix so unorthodox even Aunty Christine won’t lend to them”. But Hungary’s probable glee at bypassing the IMF and “Aunty Christine” with $3.25 billion in two bonds that were almost four times oversubscribed, is probably short-sighted.
As we wrote here last week, Russian bond markets are bracing for a flood of foreign capital. But there appears to be a surprising lack of interest in Russian equities.