Global stock markets and emerging-market currencies have gone from gains to losses in the span of the morning.
Efforts by emerging-market central banks to stem the bleeding have already failed, as the moves in currency markets are fading in Turkey and South Africa.
The S&P 500 is down 0.8% headed into the release of the Federal Open Market Committee's final monetary policy decision under the leadership of outgoing Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. The U.S. dollar-Japanese yen exchange rate is also down sharply, indicative of fears over global liquidity.
Meanwhile, 10-year U.S. Treasury futures are rallying, currently up 0.3%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is 2.71%, down 4 basis points from yesterday's close, and gold futures are up 1.0%, trading at $1,263 an ounce.
The charts below show the action in various markets. Across the top from left to right are S&P 500 futures, the dollar-yen exchange rate, and the euro-dollar exchange rate. Across the bottom from left to right are gold futures, 10-year U.S. Treasury futures, and the dollar-lira exchange rate.
Last night, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey announced massive rate hikes at the conclusion of an emergency meeting to shore up the Turkish lira, which has been plummeting to new all-time lows over the past several trading sessions. The lira surged on the announcement, but has since given up all of its gains and then some.
U.S. Treasury and S&P 500 futures have been correlated with the dollar-lira exchange rate since the CBRT announcement. When the lira goes down, it seems that S&P 500 futures are going down and Treasury futures are going up.
The lira took a big hit at 8:20 a.m. ET this morning, when the South Africa Reserve Bank unexpectedly announced that it would hike interest rates as well. Since then, it has recovered.
"The question is why the response to these moves is so aggressive and so negative," says Steven Englander, global head of G-10 FX strategy at Citi.
"It is possible that investors fear that the EM central banks have fired their last shot, and will be unable to follow through with more tightening, or that their economies/politics are too weak to support rate hikes."
Emerging markets have been suffering portfolio outflows since the Federal Reserve floated the idea of winding down its quantitative easing program last summer, and the pain has intensified since it actually began the tapering process in December. As the Fed pumps less dollars into the financial system, EMs are experiencing dollar shortages around the world, causing their currencies to plunge.
The big event today is the announcement of the Fed's latest monetary policy decision at 2 p.m. ET. Economists expect the Fed to move forward with another $10 billion reduction in the monthly bond purchases, despite recent weakness in emerging markets.
Furthermore, some expect the Fed to modify its forward guidance on the likely future path of short-term interest rates.
" What is in play at today’s FOMC is the forward guidance language and reference to EM tensions," says Englander.
"With respect to domestic economic conditions and monetary policy, the market is now focused both on whether the first policy hike will be sooner than indicated and whether the subsequent hikes will be quicker. Today there is no particular need to change the language. The FOMC may be mindful of the concentration of market risk on the side of sooner and faster, and away from its baseline. If it changes the language it would probably to emphasize how shallow the upward path of rates will be."
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