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Time to Get Picky in Emerging Markets in Grip of Political Risks

Netty Ismail, Sydney Maki, Lilian Karunungan and Robert Brand

(Bloomberg) -- Emerging markets head toward the end of October with a spring in their step after currencies and stocks reached the strongest levels in three months.

Optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal, coupled with the prospect of a third interest-rate cut this year by the Federal Reserve -- which would increase the scope for even lower rates in developing economies themselves -- look set to sustain the rally. Yet traders will be on the lookout for any further evidence of slowing global growth as well as the myriad of political risks in the developing world.

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“Overall, emerging markets are benefiting from the global macro backdrop, but we advocate taking a more selective approach and monitor each country flare-up independently,” said Anders Faergemann, a London-based senior money manager at Pinebridge Investments, which oversees about $97 billion. “The focus will be on Argentina’s election and other country-specific events such as the tense situations in Lebanon, Chile and Ecuador.”

Argentina’s central bank announced tighter currency controls after populist Alberto Fernandez won Sunday’s landmark presidential election. Dollar bonds sold by Lebanon and Ecuador have been the worst performers in emerging markets this month amid protests.

In Chile, more than a million people poured into the Santiago’s public squares and thoroughfares on Friday, intensifying pressure on a government struggling to contain unrest over economic hardship.

Argentine Election Winner

Strategists and investors say markets had already priced in a victory by Fernandez, who ousted pro-market incumbent Mauricio MacriArgentine bonds due 2021 recouped initial losses to trade 0.4% higher at 46.9 cents on the dollar, leaving the yield down 26 basis points at 70% as of 12:02 p.m. in LondonInvestors are watching for what the final composition of congress will be, and how that may impact key legislation ahead, including a debt restructuring. They’ll also be keeping an eye on any details Fernandez gives of his economic planRead: Argentina Investors Look Ahead After Fernandez Pulls Out WinUruguay’s presidential election will go to a runoff next month after none of the candidates reached the 50% plus one threshold needed to win in a first round

South Africa’s Big Week

The focus will be on Wednesday’s mid-term budget, followed by a scheduled credit-rating review on Friday by Moody’s Investors Service, the only one of the big three still to assess South Africa at investment gradeFinance Minister Tito Mboweni will have to convince investors -- and Moody’s -- the government has a handle on the fiscal deficit and sovereign debt levels, even as bailouts for state-owned companies including electricity utility Eskom strain finances at a time when tax revenue is falling short of targetsInvestors also expect more details on the government’s turnaround plan for Eskom, which has 450 billion rand ($30 billion) of debt and subjected customers to rolling blackouts this month as its ailing infrastructure failedA raft of data will also provide further clues on the outlook for the economy, starting with money supply and private credit as well as third-quarter unemployment on Tuesday, producer-price inflation on Wednesday, the monthly trade balance on Thursday and the manufacturing PMI and vehicle sales on FridayRead more: Ramaphosa’s Waiting Game Wears Thin in Corporate South Africa

Brazilian Easing

In Brazil, markets have priced in an interest-rate cut by the central bank on Wednesday as growth stalls. The real is the second-worst performing emerging-market currency since the end of July, when the bank reduced rates by a half point. Investors are also awaiting inflation data on Wednesday and industrial production on FridayColombia’s central bank is expected to leave its key interest rate unchanged at Thursday’s meetingBotswana and Mozambique will also decide monetary policy on Thursday

Economic Data and Events

China will give the first indication of how its economy is faring in the fourth quarter with the release of its official and Caixin manufacturing PMIs on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Similar gauges will be reported by Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India on FridayChinese leaders will hold from Monday to Thursday their most important meeting of the year. The plenum -- a full meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee -- comes at a time when the world’s second-biggest economy faces a slowdown at home, a trade war with the U.S. and pro-democracy protests in Hong KongTaiwan, whose benchmark stock index rose to the highest level since 1990 last week, will report its preliminary third-quarter GDP data on Thursday. The central bank boosted its 2019 growth forecast last month to 2.4% from 2.06%, saying the island nation will be able to ride out the U.S.-China trade war better than its neighbors because of increased orders from overseasTaiwan’s dollar, the biggest gainer in Asia this quarter after the South Korean won, could rise further amid accelerating equity inflows, according to Bloomberg IntelligenceSouth Korea’s export figures -- a bellwether for global trade -- will be watched on Friday after the first 20-day data indicated that shipments are poised for an 11th monthly decline in October. Thailand is scheduled to release trade data on ThursdayInflation figures from South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia are due on Friday. Central banks in South Korea and Indonesia are among those which cut policy rates this monthTurkey’s central bank is set to lower its inflation forecast for 2019 when it unveils the quarterly inflation report on Thursday, according to Bloomberg EconomicsPoland’s statistics office is set to publish on Thursday the flash CPI estimate for October, followed by the Finance Ministry’s report on the debt-supply plan for NovemberMexico’s gross domestic product data, to be released Wednesday, will probably show the nation avoided a recession in the third quarter. The Mexican peso has outperformed its Latin American currency peers so far this yearSaudi Arabia hosts its three-day Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh starting on Tuesday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, will attend.

--With assistance from Karl Lester M. Yap and Alec D.B. McCabe.

To contact the reporters on this story: Netty Ismail in Dubai at nismail3@bloomberg.net;Sydney Maki in New York at smaki8@bloomberg.net;Lilian Karunungan in Singapore at lkarunungan@bloomberg.net;Robert Brand in Cape Town at rbrand9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dana El Baltaji at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net

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