A perfect storm seems to be brewing for the Russian rouble. It has tumbled to four-year lows against a euro-dollar basket. Against the dollar, it has lost around 7 percent so far this year, faring better than many other emerging currencies. But signs are that next year will bring more turmoil.
It’s generally accepted these days that emerging equities are cheap and that value-focused investors should consider buying. But some disagree — analysts at UBS say the alleged cheapness of EM equities rings hollow when you look at the return-on-equity on emerging companies. They don’t dispute that the market has de-rated significantly on price-earnings and price-book metrics (at 10.5 times and 1.5 times respectively, they are well below long-term averages). But they argue that these have not been excessive when compared to the decline in profitability. Emerging return-on-equity pre-crisis was usually higher than developed. Once at a lofty 17 percent, emerging ROE now languishes at 12.7 percent, almost on par with ROE for developed companies. Check out this graphic:
As in many countries with memories of hyperinflation and currency collapse, Turkey’s middle class have tended to hold at least part of their savings in hard currency. But unlike in Russia and Argentina, Turkish savers’ propensity to save in dollars has on occasion proved helpful to companies and the central bank. That’s because many Turks, rather than just accumulating dollars, have evolved into savvy players of exchange rate swings and often use sharp falls in the lira to sell their dollars and buy back the local currency. Hence Turks’ hard currency bank deposits, estimated at between $70-$100 billion — on a par with central bank reserves — have acted as a buffer of sorts, stabilising the lira when it falls past a certain level.
Taiwan’s forecast-beating export data today came as a pleasant surprise amid the general emerging markets economic gloom. In a raft of developing countries, from South Korea to Brazil, from Malaysia to the Czech Republic, export data has disappointed. HSBC’s monthly PMI index showed this month that recovery remains subdued.
The Bank of Japan unleashed its full firepower this week, pushing the yen to 3-1/2 year lows of 97 per dollar. Year-to-date, the currency is down 11 percent to the dollar. But those hoping for a return to the carry trade boom of yesteryear may wait in vain.
Sterling looks likely to be one of this year’s big G10 currency casualties (the other being yen). Having lost 7 percent against the dollar and 5.5 percent to the euro so far this year on fear of a British triple-dip recession, sterling probably has further to fall. (see here for my colleague Anirban Nag’s take on sterling’s outlook).
What a difference a few months have made for Indian markets.
The rupee is 8 percent up from last summer’s record lows. Foreigners have ploughed $17 billion into Indian stocks and bonds since Sept 2012 and foreign ownership of Indian shares is at a record high 22.7 percent, Morgan Stanley reckons. And all it has taken to change the mood has been the announcement of a few reforms (allowing foreign direct investment into retail, some fuel and rail price hikes and raising FDI limits in some sectors). A controversial double taxation law has been pushed back. The government has sold some stakes in state-run companies (it offloaded 10 percent of Oil India last week, netting $585 million). If the measures continue, the central bank may cut interest rates further.
Indonesia has just given the go-ahead for another leg down in the rupiah. It has cut its forecasts for the exchange rate to 9,700 per dollar compared to the 9,200 level at which the central bank used to step in. The currency has duly weakened and nervous foreigners have rushed to hedge exposure — 3-month NDFs price the rupiah at almost 10,000 to the dollar. The rupiah last week hit a three-year low, its weakness coming on top of a dismal 2012 which saw it fall 6 percent as the current account deficit worsened. Traders in Jakarta are reporting dollar hoarding by exporters.
Emerging market currencies have been a source of frustration for investors this year. With central banks overwhelmingly in rate-cutting mode and export growth slowing, most currencies have performed poorly. That has been a bit of a dampener for local currency debt — while returns in dollar terms have been robust at 13 percent, currency appreciation has contributed just 1.5 percent of that, according to JP Morgan.