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Emerging Market Meltdown May Plunge Global Economy Into Recession

When the Fed effectively telegraphed its new reaction function last month, the FOMC served notice to the world that it was not only acutely aware of what’s going on in emerging markets, but also extremely worried about the possibility that hiking rates could end up triggering something far worse than the “tantrum” that unfolded across EM in 2013.

The dire scenario facing the world’s emerging economies has by now been well documented.

In short, slumping commodity prices, depressed raw materials demand from the Chinese growth engine, a slowdown in global trade, and a loss of competitiveness thanks to the yuan devaluation have conspired with a number of idiosyncratic, country-specific political risk factors to wreak havoc on EM FX and put an immense amount of pressure of the accumulated stash of USD-denominated reserves.  

For the Fed, this presents a serious problem. Hiking rates has the potential to accelerate EM capital outflows and yet not hiking rates does too. That is, a soaring dollar will obviously ratchet up the pressure on EM FX but then again, because the uncertainty the FOMC fosters by continuing to delay liftoff contributes to a gradual capital outflow, not hiking rates endangers EM as well. 

As we’ve been keen to point out, DM central banks aren’t operating in a vacuum. That is, if a policy “mistake” serves to tip EM over the edge, the crisis will feed back into the world’s advanced economies forcing DM central banks to immediately recant any and all hawkishness. For more evidence of EM fragility and the link between an emerging market meltdown and DM stability, we go to FT:

Emerging economies risk “leading the world economy into a slump”, with lower growth and a rout in financial markets, according to the latest Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index.


Released ahead of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Lima, Peru, the index paints a much more pessimistic outlook than the fund is likely to predict later this week.


According to Eswar Prasad of Brookings, weak economic data across most poorer economies has created “a dangerous combination of divergent growth patterns, deficient demand, and deflationary risks”.



The Tiger index — Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery — shows how measures of real activity, financial markets and investor confidence compare with their historical averages in the global economy and within each country.


The extreme weakness in the emerging market component of the Tiger growth index shows that data releases have been significantly weaker than their historic averages.


Divergence is almost as important as a new trend highlighted in the index, however, with India emerging as a bright spot and commodity importers such as Brazil and Russia mired in recession.



Because emerging economies are now much more important in the global economy and growth rates are still higher than their developed counterparts, global growth is still hovering around 3 per cent, close to its long-term average.


The concern, according to Mr Prasad is that the slump in emerging economies’ confidence will infect advanced economist in the months ahead.

Of course the trouble in EM portends a drain in global FX reserves. This is what Deutsche Bank has dubbed the end of the "Great Accumulation" and, all else equal, it's a drain on global liquidity as exported capital from commodity producers turns negative. Here's BNP on what the picture looked like in Q2:

The Q2 2015 COFER (Currency Composition of Foreign Exchange Reserves) report from the IMF contained some key changes. For the first time, the IMF reported the list of 92 countries that are providing reserve allocation data. Importantly China started reporting its FX allocations for the first time, although still on a partial basis, with the goal of increasing the reported portfolio to full coverage of FX reserves over the next two to three years. A full inclusion of China would push the share of allocated to total reserves over 80%, making COFER reserve allocation data much more representative and relevant for analysing EM FX reserve management trends.



On a valuation adjusted basis, we estimate that total foreign exchange reserve holdings declined by USD 107bn in Q2. The IMF no longer reports the split between advanced and emerging economies but it’s very likely that much of this decrease was due to EM FX intervention. 

In other words, the dynamics that have propped up the global financial system for decades are now unwinding and at a much more fundamental level than what occurred in 2008. Emerging markets are now liquidating their USD cushions and a combination of low commodity prices and hightened political risks threatens to set the world's most important emerging markets back decades. 

Importantly, it's no longer a matter of whether DM central bankers can correct the problem by adopting policies that will serve to boost global demand, but rather if the world's most vaunted central planners can keep things from completely unraveling and on that note we close with the following from the above cited Eswar Prasad:

"The impotence of monetary policy in boosting growth and staving off deflationary pressures has become painfully apparent, especially when it is acting in isolation and when a large number of countries are resorting to the same limited playbook."