Emerging

Emerging

    Emerging - 13 July 2021
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    Emerging countries have continued to recover since the beginning of the year, although the recovery remains fragile. Household confidence indicators are lagging behind those of business sentiment, illustrating the constraints on domestic demand: the pandemic risk persists, inflation is accelerating, and governments are facing rising financing costs, which reduces their fiscal manoeuvring room. Despite buoyant foreign trade, the horizon is not clear enough yet for investment to rebound. Fortunately, the vast majority of central banks have been maintaining a proactive stance so far, despite inflationary pressures. But monetary policy is bound to tighten across the board.
    Economic growth rebounded very rapidly following the Covid-19 shock, but this rebound has also been characterised by mixed performances between sectors and between demand components. Growth of industrial production and exports accelerated vigorously until early 2021 and is now gradually returning to normal. Meanwhile, the services sector and private consumption were slower to rebound, and their recovery still proved to be fragile in Q2 2021. Consequently, the authorities are likely to be increasingly cautious about tightening economic policy. Even so, they should still give priority to slowing down domestic credit growth and adjusting the fiscal deficits.
    The second wave of the pandemic seems to have passed after new cases peaked in May. Economic activity is unlikely to contract as much as it did last year, and the decline should be limited to the second quarter. Yet the second wave is estimated to have cost more than 2 percentage points of GDP, and it comes at a time when households are still struggling to recover from the impact of the first wave. In 2020, 75 million people dropped below the poverty line. Moreover, the rebound expected this year might not suffice to stabilise the public debt ratio, which could lead the rating agencies to downgrade India’s sovereign rating. In this very uncertain environment, the rupee is not benefitting from the strength of India’s external accounts.
    The health crisis is barely improving in the Philippines. After a particularly severe second wave, the number of new Covid-19 cases seems to have levelled off, albeit at a high level. Yet the full vaccination rate is very low, which means that the tight health restrictions which must be kept in place are weighing on domestic demand and the tourism sector. After contracting by more than 9% in 2020, GDP should rebound moderately in 2021. Even so, the country still has high growth potential thanks to the reforms undertaken over the past decade, which are paying off.
    After a modest contraction in 2020, the Russian economy has registered a solid growth rebound since March 2021 driven by the strength of domestic demand and exports. The third wave of the epidemic seen since June, alongside strong inflationary pressure and the resulting tightening of monetary policy, could, however, hold back the recovery. This said, the threats to the economy remain under control. Public finances have been boosted by a sharp rise in global oil prices and the debt refinancing risk is limited despite the latest US sanctions. Lastly, foreign exchange reserves cover the totality of external debt.
    Covid-19 was only a temporary brake on Polish growth. The economy is outperforming its neighbours’, with a shallower recession in 2020 and an earlier recovery. Credit risk appears to be under relatively good control, despite high levels of participation for the loan repayment moratorium scheme. Supply side constraints are even raising fears of a temporary overheating of the economy, with an increase in inflation. However, a strong current account surplus and the good control of government debt are stabilising factors. Poland’s economic growth potential remains unchanged, even though the prospect of international tax harmonisation may slow down foreign investment.
    The Romanian economy is in the midst of a spectacular rebound. Real GDP has already returned to pre-Covid levels, and growth should reach 8.2% in 2021. But this performance has been accompanied by high fiscal and external deficits. Consequently, contrary to the other Central European countries, public debt is unlikely to narrow by 2022. Private-sector borrowers benefited from a moratorium on debt payments, but debt formerly under moratorium now presents a non-performing loan ratio of 10.9%. Nonetheless, the banking system should be able to absorb these losses. However, one factor worth monitoring is the rapid growth in housing loans.
    The Serbian economy was only moderately affected by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Activity barely contracted, whilst the central bank maintained an adequate level of foreign-currency liquidity against a background of significant euroisation of the economy. These good performances can be linked to the economy’s attractiveness for international investors, as well as to past fiscal consolidation measures, which meant that the government had more scope to support the economy last year. In the short term, the recovery is likely to be strong, in particular thanks to exports, and inflation should remain under control. Looking further ahead, the ability of the authorities to maintain the economy’s competitiveness will be crucial in reducing currency risk.
    The Brazilian economy has been surprisingly resilient given the challenging sanitary situation it faced in Q1. A more supportive external environment, a stronger recovery in services and a rebound in confidence, should help support the short-term outlook – especially as the epidemic slows down with improving vaccination coverage. Accelerating inflation continues to be a concern and could lead to a more vigorous tightening of monetary policy at the end of the summer. While the currency and portfolio investments stand to benefit from more aggressive rate hikes, the latter also risk slowing down the recovery and adversely affecting public finances. So far though, the sovereign has recorded better fiscal metrics than expected, which have translated into lower risk premiums.
    The economy should rebound strongly in 2021 thanks to a successful vaccination campaign, improved prospects for global growth and higher copper prices. According to the monthly economic index, in early Q2, real GDP returned to the pre-pandemic level of December 2019. Looking beyond 2021, economic growth prospects could be marred by persistent political tensions plaguing the country. Debates over the presidential election on the one hand and the process of drawing up a new constitution on the other will probably disrupt the implementation of economic policy as well as private sector investment decisions by both resident and non-resident investors.
    The Saudi economy took a double hit in 2020: the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic amplified the recessionary impact of falling oil prices and production. In addition to the economic consequences, these two exogenous shocks have had negative consequences for the reform process, and particularly for the dynamism of the private sector. The recovery expected in 2021 will be timid, due to a further slowdown in oil activity. Budget deficits are likely to persist over the medium term, resulting in an increase in government debt. Macroeconomic imbalances remain moderate, but the continued dependence on oil in the context of economic transition remains a significant source of vulnerability.
    After declining 1.9% in 2020, Nigeria’s GDP is unlikely to rebound but mildly in 2021 due to persistent and significant macroeconomic imbalances. Despite the first signs of stabilization, inflation is still very high, and several adjustments to the naira have failed to correct the dysfunctions in the foreign exchange market. Although the rebound in oil prices should help reduce somewhat the squeeze on external liquidity, it will surely take more than that to restore the confidence of investors. Without reforms and with no fiscal manoeuvring room, the economy will continue to be vulnerable to external shocks.
    South Africa has been severely hit by the Covid-19 crisis, after already several years of very low economic growth and social and political tensions. Real GDP collapsed by 7% in 2020 and public finances have deteriorated significantly. However, South Africa has also benefitted from a strong improvement in its external accounts. The boom in export receipts has supported the rebound in activity and fiscal revenue over the past year. This better-than-expected macroeconomic performance has reassured investors and facilitated the coverage of the government’s financing needs. However, in the medium term, challenges remain unchanged: large and difficult reforms remain necessary to elevate the country’s growth potential and improve public debt sustainability.
    Emerging - 16 April 2021
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    In their spring outlook, the IMF economists expect to see a multi-speed (and incomplete) recovery of the global economy in 2021. Indeed, speed is the key word for 2021 because the emerging countries are racing against time on several fronts. In our eyes, the greatest short-term risks are linked to the race between the rollout of vaccinations and the spread of the pandemic, and between higher food prices and the partial catching-up of revenues for low-income households. If this divergence persists, we could see a rise in social risks, which may have a much more destabilisation capacity than financial risks.
    At the end of the annual “Two Sessions”, China’s major political event, Beijing announced its economic targets for 2021 as well as the priorities of its new five-year plan. By setting this year’s real GDP growth target at simply “more than 6%”, which is lower than forecasts, the authorities are signalling that the economic recovery following the Covid-19 crisis is no longer the main focus of concern. In the short term, they will continue to cautiously tighten monetary policy and gradually scale back fiscal support measures. Above all, the authorities have affirmed their medium-term development strategy, which aims to boost innovation and drastically expand China’s technological independence.
    The economic recovery could be weakened by a second wave of Covid-19 and a fresh surge in inflation. With the government seeking to step up the pace of reforms to support growth over the medium term and improve the business environment, the number of protests against the moves is mounting, with protestors’ ire directed particularly at the privatisations that the government is counting on to cut its budget deficit. In the banking sector, banks currently are able to deal with the expected rise in credit risk. Nevertheless, in order to support a resumption of lending growth, a new injection of capital into state-owned banks has already been planned, alongside the creation of a defeasance structure.
    Having contracted by 2.1% in 2020, the Indonesian economy is likely to see only a modest recovery in 2021. Domestic demand is struggling to recover. Consumer sentiment remains weak and any resurgence in the pandemic could undermine the recovery, at a time when a very low percentage of the population has been vaccinated. Moreover, despite the highly expansionary monetary policy, bank lending has continued on its downward trend. The financial position of Indonesian companies prior to the Covid-19 crisis was more fragile than those of ASEAN peers, and they are likely to seek to consolidate their positions rather than invest in an uncertain future. The banking sector remains solid and well-placed to deal with an expected increase in credit risk. 
    After a severe recession in 2020, economic growth will rebound moderately in 2021-2022. The main growth engines – private consumption and the tourism industry – were weakened by the abrupt shutdown of economic activity as of Q2 2020, and the dynamics of the recovery will continue to depend on the evolution of the health situation. As in 2020, the authorities will take advantage of the comfortable manoeuvring room built up prior to the crisis to provide economic support. In the medium to long term, political tensions, exacerbated by the economic crisis, will continue to strain Thailand’s long-term growth potential.
    The health crisis continues to worsen – undermining the economy to a point of entertaining a recessionary risk in the first half of 2021. In this context, confidence has plummeted and financial markets have retreated. The vaccination campaign – after facing significant logistical challenges – has finally begun to accelerate since mid-March and with the concomitant introduction of new restrictive measures, the hope is that the epidemic curve will reach an inflection point over the next two months. Faced with rising inflation and inflation expectations, the Central Bank launched its monetary tightening cycle, which – against a backdrop of slowing economic activity and a high sovereign interest burden – has exacerbated budgetary pressures and risks. Although weakened by the crisis, financial soundness indicators of the banking sector remain very favourable.
    Thanks to a strong Q4 rebound, the contraction in real GDP was limited to 8.2% in 2020, the public deficit did not swell as much as expected, and 2021 growth prospects were given a boost. Yet the recovery is still fragile: private consumption and investment have both taken a lasting hit from the 2020 crisis, and the export sector will not benefit fully from the expected rebound in US growth. The crisis also exacerbated concerns about the vulnerability of public finances and the decline in investment, which will undermine medium to long-term growth prospects.
    The November 2020 announcement that monetary policy would move in a new direction had tamed financial tensions. However, as the Central Bank Governor was removed in March 2021, uncertainty came back. Exchange rate depreciation pressures have reappeared and interest rates and risk premiums have risen. Growth support will be the top policy priority, but at the price of maintaining significant macroeconomic imbalances. Credit risk is not reflected into the non-performing loan ratio but the forbearance period which is allowing the postponement of their reporting will end at mid-2021. The observed corporate investment recovery is welcomed, as a precondition to improve potential growth, but other conditions such as productivity growth are still missing.
    The country weathered the difficulties of 2020 relatively well, notwithstanding the recession that Covid-19 produced and the drying up of private capital inflows. Thanks to the improvement in the terms of trade, the current account surplus was sufficient to balance the existing gap. Over recent years, Ukraine has been able to improve its fiscal management, which helped to secure the support of international financial institutions. The challenge for the months ahead lies in a resumption of capital inflows and in the planned reforms to encourage investment and increase potential growth. It will be important to keep an eye on reforms in the banking sector, which relate both to the consolidation of the sector and to the improvement of the prudential and supervisory framework.
    The Egyptian economy proved to be resilient last year. Economic growth remained positive thanks to fiscal support, and the main macroeconomic metrics did not deteriorate significantly thanks notably to international support. The good fiscal performance was noteworthy, and will help maintain the attractiveness of Egyptian debt. This said, it would be wise to remain cautious. On the one hand, the rate of vaccination is slow and the pandemic is still active; on the other hand, the external accounts remain vulnerable, and the improvement in the external energy balance seen in 2020 may not continue in the short term.
    The Qatari economy began 2021 under relatively favourable conditions: thought the regional embargo ended, the Covid-19 pandemic is still active. Despite the fall in oil prices in 2020, the fiscal and current account deficits remained limited. Over the medium term, the development of new gas export capacity should further strengthen an already solid macroeconomic position. The main source of vulnerability remains banks’ external indebtedness, which is very high and continues to grow as the economy’s expansion accelerates. However, government support is guaranteed, and the external position of the banks should be restored as a result of the expected slowdown in lending and increase in deposits.
    So far, the economy has posted a fairly good resilience to the pandemic shock. Although economic growth slowed sharply in 2020, it nonetheless remained in positive territory. Above all, the economy is expected to rebound strongly this year, buoyed by domestic demand and easing political tensions after a busy electoral calendar. The country’s debt situation is also not as alarming compared to the other African countries. Even so, the sharp deterioration in public finances in 2020 calls for fiscal consolidation, which could prove to be difficult without a sustainable increase in fiscal revenue. This could weigh on the growth prospects of an economy that is increasingly dependent on public investment. 
    Although Kenya was spared a recession in 2020, the Covid-19 shock exacerbated the country’s economic vulnerabilities. The risk of excessive public debt is especially high, and despite financial support provided by multilateral and bilateral creditors, budget management will remain a big challenge in the short and medium terms. The level and structure of the debt expose the government to solvency risk. Fortunately, reforms are expected to reduce this risk, and the IMF financing programme recently granted to the Kenyan authorities should support these efforts and help reassure non-resident investors.

On the Same Theme

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.
The Covid crisis has not raised domestic borrowing costs for governments 2/10/2021
Almost a year ago, the pandemic triggered a financial shock that shook the emerging countries. Since then, monetary and financing conditions have largely returned to normal. Portfolio investment even soared to record levels in the second half of 2020 in a context of a massive support from the Fed. Under this environment, for the majority of the major emerging countries, government borrowing costs in local currency are equal or lower than they were at year-end 2019. And yet swelling fiscal deficits have driven up public debt to unprecedented levels. The low cost of government borrowing can be attributed largely to the widespread easing of conventional monetary policy via policy rate cuts, and to the securities purchasing programmes adopted by many EM central banks. Yet low borrowing costs also reflect the need or obligation for banks and other domestic financial intermediaries to mobilise national savings to cover public financing needs. During this unprecedented crisis, governments have had to support their economies by using every lever possible (fiscal stimulus, state-backed loans). The rise in public debt cannot be blamed on poor fiscal management. It is normal and highly welcome that borrowing costs in the emerging countries are not higher than pre-crisis levels.

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