In the heady days of the commodity boom, oil-rich nations accumulated billions of dollars in reserves they invested in U.S. debt and other securities. They also occasionally bought trophy assets, such as Manhattan skyscrapers, luxury homes in London or Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.
Now that oil prices have dropped by half to $50 a barrel, Saudi Arabia and other commodity-rich nations are fast drawing down those “petrodollar” reserves. Some nations, such as Angola, are burning through their savings at a record pace, removing a source of liquidity from global markets.
Russian government officials and businessmen are readying for sanctions resembling those applied to Iran after what they see as the inevitable annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, according to four people with knowledge of the preparations.
Iran-style retaliation from the West, which would include freezing Russia’s foreign reserves, banking assets and halting lending to companies, is being treated as an unlikely worst-case scenario, according to the people who asked not to be identified as the talks are under way. Officials are calculating the cost to the economy, the people said. Continue reading
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. Continue reading