The stock of capital flowing into emerging markets has doubled from $4 trillion to $8 trillion since the Lehman Crisis, chasing a catch-up growth story that looks tired and has largely sputtered out in Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
Much of the money has gone into debt, with falling economic returns. This is the next shoe to drop in the festering saga of global imbalances. All it will take is a gear-shift by the US Federal Reserve and the inevitable dollar surge that follows. It was the Volcker Fed that set off Latin America’s defaults in the early 1980s. It was the mighty dollar that set off Mexico’s Tequila crisis, and then the East Asian chain-reaction in the 1990s.
“Every emerging market blow-up that I have seen was preceded by a rise in the dollar,” said Albert Edwards for Societe Generale.
“Investors overlook how vulnerable these countries are to a dollar shock. The whole process of excess liquidity and foreign reserve build-up goes into reverse. It acts like monetary tightening and turns into a vicious circle. Markets look for the weak link with the worst current account deficit, and then the dominoes start to fall,” he said.
Stripped bare, the BRICS miracle is really about China, and even the Politburo has run into diminishing returns after ramping up credit from $9 trillion to $23 trillion in four years. At best China will have settle for more pedestrian growth, but it too is at the mercy of the Fed.
By pegging its currency to the dollar it risks an exchange rate surge against the rest of Asia, compounding the effects of a 30pc rise against Japan’s yen since last summer.
This looks all too like the mid-1990s, when the yen crashed against the dollar and gave China a brutal deflationary shock. China’s $3.4 trillion foreign reserves will prove no defence. To deploy reserves the would entail conversion back into yuan, causing the currency to rise. It would exacerbate the shock.
To cap it all, this is happening just as China’s trade surplus vanishes and American firms switch plant back to US soil for cheaper power and better labour productivity. The wheel is turning full circle.
Full article: BRICS risk ‘sudden stop’ as dollar rally builds (The Telegraph)