Emerging-Markets’ Prospects Bright, Even If Risks Never Far Away

The Emerging-Market Rally Is Starting to Stir Longevity Doubts

For all the risks of a year-end cooling-off period, emerging-market backers can’t complain about the lie of the land right now.

From the rollout of vaccination programs in some countries to rising commodity prices and the prospect of a breakthrough in U.S. stimulus talks, there are plenty of tailwinds to justify the buying spree that has sent gauges of developing-nation stocks, currencies and bonds to five straight weeks of gains. Inflows into emerging markets reached a monthly record in November according to the Institute of International Finance and exchange-traded funds last week received the most money since January.

“Low interest rates, increased conversation about stimulus and a ‘flight-to-quality’ unwind with progress on the Covid vaccine should keep the U.S. dollar dropping, which should be a boost to equities,” said Malcolm Dorson, a New York-based money manager at Mirae Asset Global Investments, whose $1.1 billion Mirae Asset Emerging Markets Great Consumer Fund, which Dorson helps oversee, has outperformed 91% of peers over the past three years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The risks, as ever, are never far away. Renewed U.S.-China tensions cast a pall on the market Monday.

Aside from the continued spread of Covid-19, traders will also be keeping an eye on any signs that the global recovery may be faltering, with many developing economies getting low on firepower to cushion the blow from another shock. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says the tactical upside in emerging markets may be more muted from here, even as it turns more positive on the 2021 outlook for high-yielding currencies such as the South African rand, Mexican peso and Indian rupee.

Still, the growing conviction that emerging markets are poised for further gains in 2021 will continue to sustain investor interest, according to Citigroup Inc. Central banks, too, may be less minded to cut interest rates as activity picks up in some of the hardest-hit economies. A report on Tuesday may show South Africa’s economy exited its longest recession in almost three decades in the third quarter. Policy makers in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Ukraine are forecast to keep rates on hold this week.

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Central Banks in Focus

  • Brazil’s central bank will probably hold its key interest rate at a record low on Wednesday as the recovery in Latin America’s biggest economy slows
    • Smaller cash handouts could cause October retail sales figures released on Thursday to lose some steam. But as the economy remains weak, November inflation scheduled for Tuesday is expected to accelerate above 4% for the first time since February
    • The Brazilian real has been the best performer in emerging markets in the past month
  • Chilean policy makers will also probably hold interest rates steady on Monday, though they may sound less dovish than in previous meetings, according to Bloomberg Economics
    • Consumer prices unexpectedly dropped 0.1% in November from the previous month on falling apparel costs and easing food inflation, data released on Monday showed
  • Peru’s monetary authority is also likely to keep borrowing costs at an all-time low on Thursday and repeat its commitment to stay accommodative, according to Bloomberg Economics
  • Ukraine’s central bank will probably keep rates unchanged on Thursday amid a strained budget and uncertainty over IMF aid. The hryvnia, the world’s best performer last year, reached the weakest level since January 2018 in November
  • Serbia will also decide on monetary policy Thursday

U.S.-China Friction

  • The U.S. is preparing to sanction at least a dozen more Chinese officials over their role in the recent disqualification of Hong Kong legislators, according to two people familiar with the plans
    • The latest round of sanctions over Hong Kong could be rolled out as soon as Monday, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the measures haven’t been formally announced
    • Read: Markets Hit as U.S. Sanctions Remind China Tensions Here to Stay

Thailand Speaks

  • The Bank of Thailand plans to hold a briefing on Wednesday to explain foreign-exchange measures. Thai authorities are among the most vocal in Asia in expressing concern over the strength of their currencies and the impact on exports
    • The baht has risen about 10% from this year’s low reached in April. The Thai central bank prefers to monitor speculation, especially in short-term bonds, and deregulate offshore investments and foreign-exchange transactions, rather than resort to capital controls, Nalin Chutchotitham, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in Bangkok, wrote in a note. Policy makers relaxed rules on capital outflows in November
    • Central banks in South Korea and Taiwan are also taking steps to curb the appreciation of their currencies
    • Read: Taiwan’s Supercharged Economy Puts Central Bank in a Bind

Mideast Politics

  • Middle East stocks rallied on Sunday after Saudi Arabia and Qatar said they were making progress toward ending a three-year long rift, providing the latest spur to a region being buttressed by a jump in oil prices

  • Elsewhere, Kuwaiti voters replaced more than half of the sitting parliament, in a blow to pro-government forces, women and liberals. The election was held at a critical moment for an economy reeling from lower oil prices, the coronavirus pandemic and stalled reforms
    • The Premier Market index of the biggest and most liquid shares in Kuwait declined 0.4% on Sunday

Data and Events

  • China’s exports jumped in November by the most since early 2018 as year-end demand surged, pushing the trade surplus to a monthly record, official data showed Monday

    • Overseas shipments rose 21.1% in dollar terms in November from a year earlier, the most since February 2018, while imports gained 4.5%. That left a trade surplus of $75.4 billion for the month, which was the largest on record in data going back to at least 1990
    • China’s foreign exchange reserves rose by more than $50 billion in November to the highest since August 2016, likely boosted by the weaker dollar and a trade surplus at record highs
    • Read: Asian Intervention in Focus, With EUR/USD Spill-Over Likely
    • Chinese consumer and producer inflation data are due on Wednesday. The CPI could drop below zero in the coming months amid a slump in pork prices, while factory prices are already in deflation
    • China may also release a slew of data this week on money supply, credit and foreign direct investment
    • The yuan is among emerging Asia’s best-performing currencies this year
  • Taiwan exports surged at their fastest pace since February as a resurgence in demand for traditional manufacturing goods added to already strong shipments for high-tech products
  • The Philippines reports trade figures for October on Thursday. The peso, which is near a four-year high, is benefiting from a smaller trade deficit this year amid an import slump
  • India reports October industrial production on Friday. Factory output turned positive for the first time in seven months in September amid the easing of lockdown measures. The rupee is emerging Asia’s worst-performing currency this year
  • Malaysia is also due to release October industrial production data on Friday. Output turned positive since July but remains sluggish. The ringgit has risen more than 2% this quarter
  • Foreign-reserves data from Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand are also due this week
    • Indonesia’s November foreign reserves slightly fell to $133.56 billion due in part to the government’s payments on external debt, the central bank said Monday
  • South Africa is set to report that GDP rebounded almost 55% in the third quarter, after shrinking 51% in the previous three months
    • “South Africa’s lockdown was one of the most draconian in the world, resulting in a huge contraction in growth in the second quarter,” Bloomberg Economics said. “The easing of containment measures has since supported a recovery in output”
    • The rand has been the top emerging-market gainer after South Korea’s won in the past three months
  • European Union heads of state will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss a multi-annual budget and emergency coronavirus stimulus measures that have been held back by a Hungarian and Polish veto over efforts to tie spending to upholding democratic standards

    • Hungary and Poland must offer a clear signal that they will lift their veto over the EU’s jointly financed stimulus plan by Tuesday or risk losing billions of euros in aid, officials warned
    • Implied volatility in the forint and the zloty has risen in the run-up to the meeting
  • Bank of Russia holds a conference on the economy in the time of Covid-19 on Dec. 9-10, with Governor Elvira Nabiullina among speakers
    • Russia said more than 2 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine will be ready for use this week
  • A reading of Mexico’s November consumer-price inflation on Wednesday is expected to flag a slowdown, consistent with central bank forecasts, according to Bloomberg Economics
    • October industrial production figures, to be released on Friday, will probably add to signs that activity is recovering. The Mexican peso is the top performer in emerging markets this quarter

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.