With the U.S. Fed having cranked up its printing presses, there seems little to stop emerging central banks from extending their own rate cut campaigns this week.
Central bankers as carry traders? Why not.
As we wrote here yesterday, FX reserves at global central banks may be starting to rise again. That’s a consequence of a pick up in portfolio investment flows in recent weeks and is likely to continue after the U.S. Fed’s announcement of its QE3 money-printing programme.
One of the big stories of the past decade, that of staggering reserve accummulation by emerging market central banks, appeared to have ground to a halt as global trade and economic growth slumped. But according to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, reserves are starting to grow again for the first time since mid-2011.
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.
Greek gloom dominates the start of the week as new elections there look inevitable and talk of Greek euro exit, or a Grexit” as common market parlance now has it, mounts. All risk assets and securities hinged on global growth have been hit, with China’s weekend reserve ratio easing doing little to offset gloomy data from world’s second biggest economy at the end of last week. World stocks are down heavily and emerging markets are underperforming; the euro has fallen to near 4-month lows below $1.29; safe haven core government debt is bid as euro peripheral debt yields in Italy and Spain push higher; and global growth bellwethers such as crude oil and the Australian dollar are down – the latter below parity against the US dollar for the first time in 5 months.
This is a guest post from Douglas J. Peebles, Head of Fixed Income at AllianceBernstein. The piece reflects his own opinion and is not endorsed by Reuters. The views expressed do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AllianceBernstein portfolio-management teams.
Now that the Fed appears to have dashed any lingering hopes for an imminent QE3, what’s next for emerging markets? Most observers put this year’s stellar performance of emerging bonds, currencies and equities largely down to the various money-printing or cheap money operations in the developed world. That’s kept core government bond yields bumping along near record lows and benefited higher-yielding emerging assets.
It’s curious to see so many asset managers reaffirm their faith in a bullish 2012 for world markets just as a buzzing first quarter comes to a close on Friday with hefty gains in equities and risk assets. Whether or not there is a mechanical review of portfolios at quarter end, it’s certainly a reasonable time for review. The euro zone crisis has of course eased, the ECB has pumped the banks full of cash and the U.S. recovery continues. So, no impending disaster then (unless you subscribe to the increasingly-prevalent hard-landing fears in China). But after 11+ percent gains in world equities in just three months on the back of all this information, you have to wonder where the “new news” is going to come from here. The surprise factor looks over and we’re highly unlikely to get 10%+ gains in global stocks every quarter this year. So, is it time for tired markets to sober up for a while or maybe even reconsider the risk of reversal again? Strategists at JPMorgan Asset Management, at least, reckon the economic news has just lost its oomph.
Amid all the furious G7 money printing of recent years, Brazil was the first to sound the air raid siren in the “international currency war” back in 2010 and it continues to cry foul over the past week. With its finance ministry issuing fresh warnings last night over hot-money flows being dropped by western economies on its unsuspecting exporters via currency speculation, Brazil’s central bank then set off its own defensive anti aircraft battery with a surprisingly deep interest rate cut late Wednesday. Having tried everything from taxes on hot foreign inflows to currency market intervention, they are braced for a long war and there’s little sign of the flood of cheap money from the United States, Europe and Japan ending anytime soon. So, if you can’t beat them, do you simply join them?
Thursday’s crude oil price surge to its highest in almost 4 years (apparently due to a subsequently denied report from Iran of a Saudi pipeline explosion…phew!) illustrates just how anxious and dangerous the energy market has become for world markets yet again this year and HSBC on Friday spotlighted its threat to the global economy and asset prices in a note entitled “Oil is the new Greece”. The point of the neat headline hook was a simple one: