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.
Friday’s data showed the benchmark consumer price index, IPCA, up 0.6 percent for a year-on-year inflation rate of 6.31 percent. President Dilma Rousseff, who faces elections next year, took to the airwaves soon after to reassure voters about her commitment to taming inflation, announcing a series of tax cuts. That effectively is a signal that there is now no political constraint on raising interest rates. According to the political risk consultancy, Eurasia:
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).
In Brazil, it was high time. Inflation and inflation expectations have been rising for a while, the yield curve has been steepening and anxiety has grown, not only about the central bank”s commitment to controlling inflation but also about its independence. Whether the central bank will actually start a hiking cycle anytime soon is another matter. Barclays reckon it will, predicting three consecutive 50 bps rate hikes starting from April. But analysts at Societe Generale are among those who are betting on flat rates for now. They point out that since the meeting, the Brazilian yield curve has moved to its flattest in a year and the 2017 inflation breakevens (the difference between the yields on fixed-rate and inflation-linked bonds of similar maturity) have fallen more than 50bps:
LONDON (Reuters) – Record high stocks? Currency surges? In the United States maybe, but across emerging markets, slowing economies and collapsing exports are hammering company profits far harder than in the seemingly hobbled West.
While world stocks have risen more than 5 percent already this year, led by Wall Street’s surge to record highs, bourses from China to Brazil are flat to negative in dollar terms, unnerving those who fear a third year of stop-start performance.
LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) – Record high stocks? Currency
surges? In the United States maybe, but across emerging markets,
slowing economies and collapsing exports are hammering company
profits far harder than in the seemingly hobbled West.
While world stocks have risen more than 5 percent already
this year, led by Wall Street’s surge to record highs, bourses
from China to Brazil are flat to negative in dollar terms,
unnerving those who fear a third year of stop-start performance.
LONDON (Reuters) – Russell Indexes, which has $3.9 trillion tracking its market indices, will become the first major index provider to relegate Greek equities from the top-tier developed markets category to emerging markets.
The company said on Monday it planned to re-classify Greece at its upcoming annual index review in March and the move would become effective at the end of June.
LONDON (Reuters) – Argentine debt insurance costs and bond yields soared on Thursday after the first day of a U.S. appeals court hearing raised fears that the country is heading for its second huge default in 11 years.
Judges in New York said on Wednesday it was the court’s job to “enforce contracts, not rewrite them”, indicating the panel could ultimately uphold a previous ruling that instructed Argentina to pay all creditors in full, including those who refused to take part in past debt exchanges.
Argentina squares off today in a U.S. Appeals court with the so-called holdout creditors who are demanding $1.3 billion in payments on defaulted bonds. A decision will probably take a few days but supporters of both sides have been mustering.
Emails have been pouring into journalists’ inboxes thick and fast from the Argentine Task Force, a lobby group that wants Argentina to settle with bondholders and identifies its goal as “pursuing a fair reconciliation of of the Argentine debt default”. And yesterday, a noisy pots-and-pans protest was held outside the London offices of Elliot Associates (the parent company of one of the two hedge fund litigants) by groups supporting Argentina in its battle against those it terms “vulture funds”. Nick Dearden, director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a group that calls for cancelling poor countries’ debts, says:
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.
But analysts at Unicredit write that both markets and economic data had validated rate cuts in 2012, which may not be the case any more. Annual headline inflation fell from 6.6% in September 2012 to 3.7% in January 2013 while the economy contracted 1.7% last year. As a result, net foreign buying of Hungarian bonds rose in the second half of 2012 to 837 billion forints (an average daily rate of almost 6 billion forints), they note. Markets are pricing at least 3 more cuts, that will take the rate to 4.5 percent.
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.
To mark the upcoming anniversary, JPMorgan – the owner of the indices – has published some interesting data that shows how the asset class has been transformed in the past two decades. In 1993:
- The emerging debt universe was worth just $422 billion, the EMBI Global had 14 sovereign bonds in it with a market capitalisation of $112 billion.
- The average credit rating on the index was BB.
- Public debt-to-GDP was almost 100 percent back then for emerging markets, compared to 69 percent for developed markets.
- Forex reserves for EMBI countries stood at $116 billion
- Per capita annual GDP for index countries was less than $3000.
Now fast forward 20 years:
- The emerging debt universe is close to $10 trillion, there are 55 countries in the EMBIG index and the market capitalisation of the three main JPM indices has swollen to $2.7 trillion.
- The EMBIG has an average Baa3 credit rating (investment grade) with 62 percent of its market cap investment-grade rated.
- Public debt is now 34 percent of GDP on average in emerging markets, while developed world debt ratios have ballooned to 119 percent of GDP.
- Forex reserves for EMBIG members stand at $6.1 trillion
- Per capita annual income has risen 2.5 times to $7,373.
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.
A rate cut is also possible in Israel later today, taking the interest rate to 1.5 percent. Recent data showed growth at a weaker-than-expected 2.5 percent in the last quarter of 2012 while inflation was 1.5 percent in January, at the bottom of the central bank’s target range. But most importantly, according to Goldman Sachs, the shekel has been strengthening, having risen 7 percent against the dollar since November and 6.8 percent on a trade-weighted basis in this period. That could prompt a rate cut, though analysts polled by Reuters still think on balance that the BOI will keep rates unchanged while retaining a dovish bias. A possible reason could be that house prices — a sensitive issue in Israel — are still on the rise despite tougher regulations on mortgage lending.