Emerging

Emerging

    Emerging - 22 April 2022
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    Emerging countries are now facing another major shock whereas the post-pandemic recovery has remained fragile. The war in Ukraine will impact emerging countries through its negative effects on foreign trade, capital flows and, above all, inflation. The indirect effect of soaring global commodity prices on inflation households’ purchasing power may be particularly severe, and affect mostly low-income countries in Africa, Central Europe and the Balkan region. In spite of these gloomier prospects, we do not expect a broad-based worsening in sovereign and external solvency in emerging countries in the short term. However, a few governments, especially in Africa and the Middle East, may rapidly experience payment difficulties.  
    After a strong start in 2022, China’s economic growth slowed in March. Headwinds are expected to persist in the very short term. Firstly, the rapid surge in the number of Covid-19 cases has led many regions to impose severe mobility restrictions. Secondly, the property market correction continues. Thirdly, producers and exporters will be affected by the impact of the war in Ukraine on commodity prices and world trade. Therefore, China’s official economic growth target, which has been set at 5.5% for 2022, seems highly ambitious. The Chinese authorities are accelerating the pace of fiscal and monetary easing.  
    The international economic and financial environment is not helpful for the Indian economy. Although India produces and exports wheat, it will suffer from surging commodity prices. Slowing growth is likely to hamper the government’s announced fiscal consolidation. The government will be forced to increase fertiliser subsidies sharply if it wants to contain the increase in domestic food prices, which make up almost 46% of consumer spending. India will not be able to avoid a significant deterioration in its current account deficit driven by higher oil prices and downward pressure on the rupee, especially if recent portfolio investment outflows continue. The results of the recent regional elections should ensure a degree of political stability at least until the 2024 general election.  
    The economic growth recovery has been unbalanced since the health shock in early 2020 and has rapidly lost steam. It was then interrupted in the first quarter of 2022, due to a very sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths linked to the Omicron variant. The epidemic wave is starting to recede, but Hong Kong will now have to face the effects of a slowing global trade, rising commodity prices and the tightening of US monetary policy. Despite these unfavourable conditions, sovereign solvency remains very robust and the government keeps a strong capacity to continue an expansionary fiscal policy.  
    After a modest growth in 2021, Malaysia’s economy is set to recover more strongly in 2022. It will be supported by firm domestic demand, an expansionary fiscal policy and the reopening of Malaysia’s borders to tourists. The country is an exporter of commodities – mainly oil and palm oil – and should benefit from higher international prices, without being directly affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Thanks to the additional revenue from higher oil prices, the government should be able to take on most of the burden of higher inflation to prevent problems for households whose finances have already been weakened by the 2020 crisis. Another key uncertainty regarding economic growth is how long and how severe Chinese lockdowns will be, since they could drag down Malaysian exports.  
    Brazil ended 2021 on a stronger footing than expected, but the economic picture remains fragile. Activity tends to progress in spurts, curbed by internal brakes (Omicron wave, climatic vagaries, elections) and a more degraded external environment (war in Ukraine, trading partners’ economic slowdown, etc.). Meanwhile, inflationary pressures are building up and raise the specter of continued monetary tightening.  Since the start of the year, the improvement in Brazil’s terms of trade and wide interest rate differentials with developed economies have fueled the rebound of the equity market and spurred a strong appreciation of the real. Such developments highlight a form of dissonance between the real economy and assessments of financial markets.  
    The direct consequences of the war in Ukraine on the Mexican economy should remain limited, because trade links are almost non-existent. However, indirect consequences could have a significant impact on an economy that has already been weakened by the Covid-19 crisis. Higher commodity prices will increase inflation pressure and worsen the current account deficit in Mexico, which has been a net importer of energy since 2015. In addition, supply chain disruption arising from the conflict and new coronavirus variants could drag down exports. The investment outlook is continuing to deteriorate as discussions about reforming the energy sector continue.  
    Poland is well equipped to deal with the economic consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. Its economy had fully absorbed the shock from Covid-19 by the end of 2021. Output was 5% higher than in late 2019, the recovery was well balanced and the unemployment rate had returned to a frictional level. In addition, Poland’s budget deficit fell sharply in 2021 and its public debt/GDP ratio remained well below the Maastricht limit due to a substantial gap between growth and interest rates. The current-account balance is in deficit again, but still comfortably covered by non-debt generating capital flows. The only cloud on the horizon is the acceleration in inflation which has prompted the central bank to tighten monetary policy more aggressively since autumn 2021. Growth will inevitably slow in 2022, but from a high level, and the risk is on the upside given the economy’s resilience.
    Romania’s economy slowed sharply in H2 2021, with rising inflation causing wages to decline in real terms for the first time since 2010. Growth also remained imbalanced and both public- and private-sector debt increased between 2019 and 2021. Monetary tightening started too late in 2021 and has remained very limited since the start of 2022. The external shock caused by the conflict in Ukraine will only make the slowdown worse. Any improvement in the budget deficit will be delayed by the cost of dealing with refugees. It will be the task of monetary policy to ensure financial stability in the current exceptional circumstances.
    The impact on Serbia’s economy caused by the war in Ukraine is likely to remain moderate. However, the war will adversely affect all macroeconomic indicators. Growth forecasts have been downgraded because of sharply higher inflation, trade exposure to Russia and a weaker European economy. Serbia’s central bank has carried out only moderate monetary tightening so far, expecting that the jump in inflation will be short-lived. External accounts are likely to deteriorate because of the wider current account deficit and a possible slowdown in foreign direct investment flows, but the central bank should still be able to defend the dinar stability. This is crucial for Serbia’s macroeconomic stability given that commercial bank balance sheets and government debt are highly exposed to the euro. Current circumstances mean that it will take longer to shore up the publicsector accounts, but the rise in public sector debt should remain moderate.
    At year-end 2021, the South African economy had not returned to pre-Covid levels of activity. The upturn in the price of its main export products provides the country with a welcome boost in the short term. This is illustrated by the latest budget forecasts, which are more optimistic than those published in late 2021. Yet structural vulnerabilities persist and are exacerbated by the health crisis. Although South Africa has few direct trade ties with Ukraine and Russia, it faces, like other emerging economies, soaring inflation that will strain domestic demand. The swelling public-sector wage bill and financial support for state-owned companies continue to be strong headwinds for reducing the fiscal deficit. Even if the government manages to balance the primary deficit by 2023-2024, its debt ratio will continue to rise. This risks creating a crowding-out effect that hampers grThis risks creating a crowding-out effect that hampers growth while the economy was already facing stagnation risk before the two recessionary shocks.  
    Egypt’s economic prospects have  worsened with the outbreak of war in Ukraine and its consequences for commodity prices. The widespread increase in prices will result in a significant drop in consumer purchasing power and will thus stall the main engine of economic activity. The erosion of foreign currency liquidity has accelerated over the last month, with massive outflows of capital and an expected widening of the current account deficit due to the difficulty in reducing imports, a drop in tourist frequentation and the limited effect on exports of the Egyptian pound’s depreciation. This highlights the continued vulnerability of the economy to external shocks and its reliance on external support. The support already in place from the Gulf states, and the expected package from the IMF, will give the country a little time, but foreign investors will remain cautious against a background of deterioration in the public finances.  
    Morocco’s heavy dependency on oil and wheat imports mean that it will suffer consequences from the conflict in Ukraine. However, it will be able to absorb the trade shock thanks to comfortable FX reserves. Moreover, the rise in energy and food subsidies does not compromise the expansionary fiscal policy, and the central bank plans to maintain its accommodative stance despite strong but still under control inflationary pressure. Government support remains crucial at a time when the economy is facing a significant drop in agricultural output, and therefore real GDP growth. In the short term, state solvency and external liquidity are not at risk. However, there is a high level of uncertainty about how large the shock will be and how long it will last.  
    Emerging - 26 January 2022
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    For emerging economies, the balance prospects/risks has been deteriorating since end-2021. For 2022, a bigger than expected growth slowdown is very likely, sometimes with social instability as already seen in Kazakhstan. Over the last three months, Turkey has experienced a mini financial crisis again. Monetary and exchange rate policy is betting on exports and investment to support growth and rebuild the major economic balances over the medium term, albeit at the price of short-term financial instability. This is a daring gamble that could force the authorities to introduce genuine foreign exchange controls instead of the incentive measures they have implemented so far.
    Economic indicators for the fourth quarter of 2021 confirm that China’s economic growth has been heavily constrained by the crisis in the real estate and construction sectors, the authorities’ zero-Covid strategy and the persisting weakness of household consumption. Export activity remains buoyant. However, it could start flagging in the very short term due to weaker momentum in global demand and the Omicron wave’s repercussions on factory production and the transportation of goods. The Chinese authorities are gradually easing their monetary and fiscal policies to support economic activity. At the same time, they are expected to continue cleaning up the property market, reducing financial risk and tightening regulation.
    Economic growth is still vulnerable to another epidemic wave as less than 50% of the population was fully vaccinated at the end of December 2021. Activity has already been losing momentum since December, and it could be curbed even further by the new epidemic wave that swept the country in January at a time when labour market conditions are still deteriorated. Inflation is another risk factor looming over the recovery. Not only does it reduce household purchasing power, but it could also convince the monetary authorities to raise policy rates. Under this scenario, enterprises that were already reticent to increase investment due to the prevailing climate of uncertainty would further postpone investment projects, even though their financial situation has improved significantly and banks are well positioned to increase credit supply. In the longer term, the halting of agricultural reform and the impact of the crisis on human development are factors that will crimp the country’s growth potential.
    Vietnam weathered the 2020 health crisis without any major waves of infection, without a contraction in GDP and without a notable deterioration in its macroeconomic fundamentals. In 2021, the situation was much more complicated. In Q3, an upsurge in the number of Covid-19 cases and strict lockdown measures brought the economy to a standstill. The epidemic curve deteriorated further in Q4, but the economy picked up again thanks to the increase in vaccinations and the adjustment of the “zero Covid” strategy. In the manufacturing sector, production and exports rebounded, and growth prospects are still solid. In contrast, private consumption and activity in the services sector remain weak. The government still has some manoeuvring room to boost its fiscal support.
    Thailand’s economic growth prospects over the short and medium term are limited. Private consumption and the tourist sector, the main engines of growth, will remain weak for some time. In tourism in particular, it is highly unlikely that the activity levels of 2019 will return before 2024. Moreover, the structural weaknesses of the economy (lack of investment and infrastructure) have been worsened by the pandemic and will hold back the recovery, particularly in exports. This said, although the country’s external vulnerability has increased over the last two years, it remains moderate for the time being.
    Despite the acceleration of the vaccination campaign, the anticipated rebound of growth in H2 2021 did not materialize. Instead, the economy fell into a recession in Q3 while available indicators for Q4 continued to show signs of weakness. Meanwhile, binding aspects of the spending cap have been called into question translating into an increased defiance of the market towards the sovereign. As the general election looms (October), economic prospects are expected to be very mild.  Uncertainties regarding the evolution of the epidemic, the electoral cycle, the fiscal trajectory, the persistence of inflation and the tightening of monetary and financial conditions are all expected to act as potential brakes on the recovery.
    Looking beyond the strong recovery in 2021, the Argentine economy remains fragile. Production in primary and secondary sectors has returned to its pre-pandemic levels. However, the economy remains constrained by high though largely repressed inflation, which is hitting household consumption and services. Since December 2021, a new wave of Covid-19 infections has introduced additional uncertainty. The mid-term elections have weakened the government coalition, which is still negotiating with the IMF. Monetary policy is tightening and the normalisation of budget deficit financing will require a slowdown in expenditures, although a drastic consolidation is unlikely. However, time is running out. Despite the jump in prices for agricultural raw materials, the divergence between the market exchange rate and the official rate has widened. Moreover, the central bank’s forex reserves have only just stabilised due to capital outflows, notably from residents. Above all, very large repayments fall due in March.
    Gabriel Boric won the second-round presidential election in December. He will take up his post in mid-March and will face many challenges during his term. The new government will have to deal with a fragmented legislative assembly and high levels of popular expectation. Economic growth is likely to slow as exceptional support measures are gradually withdrawn. Although vaccination levels are high, activity could be weakened by new waves of infection and the accompanying restrictions. Lastly, consolidating public finances whilst fulfilling promises to reform education, healthcare and pensions would seem to be the biggest difficulty.
    After showing rather strong resilience to the pandemic and the collapse of international oil prices in 2020, the Russian economy rebounded strongly in 2021. Yet two major risks are currently threatening growth: inflation and a tightening of international sanctions. These sanctions could even add to the inflationary risk. Nonetheless, the government has the financial capacity to support the economy, with solid public finances and low refinancing risks. Moreover, even if international sanctions were tightened to the point that foreign investors were denied access to Russia’s secondary debt market, the government would still be able to finance itself on the domestic market.
    The Ukrainian economy has suffered an accumulation of external and domestic shocks: the pandemic (vaccination rates are still low), the ongoing geopolitical risk, and domestic political tensions. Adding to these factors, inflation has accelerated over the past year. However, the Covid-19 crisis has been much better absorbed than was the case for the crises of 2008 and 2014. The current account balance has recovered and foreign currency reserves have increased, thanks in particular to higher commodity prices (cereals and metals). International support (mainly from the IMF and European Union) provided the required complement, allowing fiscal support to the economy. However, the country remains exposed to a sudden stop of capital flows. As a result, Ukraine still remains dependent on financing from international financial institutions.
    The Israeli economy goes into 2022 in a favourable position. After a strong recovery in 2021, growth is likely to receive continued support from household consumption and exports. Although inflation is rising, it remains under control, which should allow the continuation of an accommodative monetary policy. Macroeconomic fundamentals remain very favourable for the shekel, although monetary tightening in the US and a possible correction in US equity markets could slow its rise. The vulnerability of public finances to an increase in interest rates remains limited, due to the essentially domestic financing of the budget deficit and the low risk of any substantial monetary tightening in the short term.
    In Ghana, the warning signs are multiplying. Although economic growth has been fairly resilient, public finances have deteriorated sharply at a time of surging inflation. This is unsettling investors and threatening economic prospects. The central bank has already reacted by raising its key policy rate. But the authorities must reassure that they are capable of reducing the fiscal deficit. For the moment, they have failed to do so. Yet severe financial constraints and a dangerously high debt burden could force them to make adjustments.
    Economic recovery is likely to be strong in 2022, driven by buoyant household consumption and rising oil GDP. Labour market reforms are having a positive effect on domestic demand, most notably via a significant increase in women’s participation rates. Inflationary risk remains moderate, even though wage pressures have increased recently. With the increases in oil prices and output, there is likely to be a budget surplus this year. This is due in particular to progress in the diversification of fiscal revenue. The higher level of oil prices will be a test for the government’s willingness to continue the budget consolidation process. Despite ambitious development plans, economic diversification has so far made only marginal progress, due most notably to weak levels of foreign direct investment. Over the medium-term energy will remain a major area for investment.

On the Same Theme

The monetary policy dichotomy in emerging economies 12/13/2021
The recovery in emerging economies since mid-2020 has been accompanied by a tightening of monetary policy in Latin America and Europe but not in Asia so far (except South Korea). The main reasons for this lie in the level and dynamics of inflation. Inflation is strong and accelerating in Latin America and Europe, more modest and still contained in Asia. A comparison between the most highly industrialised countries of Central Europe and of Asia shows that although the recent acceleration in inflation results in part from common economic factors (higher energy and food prices), the differences in underlying inflation, that were apparent before the pandemic and have persisted since, relate to more lasting/structural factors (pressure on wages and the labour market, exposure of economies to supply-side shocks). The dichotomy in monetary policy looks likely to last.
Inflation pressures in emerging economies 10/19/2021
Emerging economies have faced mounting inflation pressures since the beginning of 2021. Headline inflation has continued to accelerate over the summer (except in Asia), primarily reflecting the rise in food and energy prices and weaker currencies against the USD. However, core inflation has also accelerated across the board. As a result, a growing number of central banks in Latin America and Central Europe have started to raise their policy rates. In Asia, inflation has remained low (North Asia) or has levelled off (India), allowing central banks to stay accommodative. So far, central banks engaged in a tightening cycle have increased their policy rate cautiously; even the more reactive ones (in countries such as Brazil and Russia) have remained behind the curve (i.e. the real policy rate is still negative or the central bank has not raised its policy rate as much as the acceleration in inflation). Whether the increase in inflation is transitory or may become permanent is an open question. On the one hand, the impact of the strong recovery in oil prices is expected to subside with the scheduled increase in OPEC+ production quotas and assuming that global supply-chain disruptions fade rapidly. On the other hand, however, there is a risk of persisting price pressures in case of a lagged pass-through from higher food and energy prices to headline inflation, if supply bottlenecks take time to wane and induce supply-demand mismatches, and/or if nominal wages catch up rapidly with prices, entailing the potential de-anchoring of inflation expectations. Persistently high inflation could pose a downside risk to the economic growth outlook in emerging countries. Moreover, food price increases have been higher in countries where food insecurity is more prevalent, putting poorer households under greater stress and fueling a risk of social unrest.
Rising US Treasury yields : no spillovers yet to emerging bond markets 3/24/2021
The significant increase in US Treasury yields in recent months has not yet led to a widening of the spread between US Treasuries and the global emerging bond market index. This index covers USD-denominated traded bonds & loans issued by sovereign and quasi-sovereign borrowers in a large number of developing economies, whereby a distinction is made between investment grade (IG) and the lower quality speculative grade (SG) issuers. The absence of spillovers coming from the United States is a relief. Admittedly, emerging market yields have moved higher, in line with US yields, but they have been spared from a spread widening, which would have made financing conditions even more onerous. Things have been different in the past. The taper tantrum in May 2013 –when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke indicated that the pace of asset purchases might be slowed down– caused higher US yields and a jump in emerging spreads. On the other hand, the Federal Reserve tightening cycle that started in 2015 but gathered pace in 2017 initially saw a narrowing of spreads and it was only in 2018 that spreads moved significantly higher. The guidance from the Federal Reserve that the current accommodative stance will be maintained for a considerable time and as long as data warrant, in combination with the ongoing quest for yield by international investors suggest that at the index level, spreads should remain rather stable. Country-specific developments could of course trigger more important spread movements.

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