Broadgate: Weekly Briefing 10/2
10 February 2014
U.S. – Janet Yellen has been sworn in as chair of the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, replacing Ben Bernanke in the role. She is the first woman to hold the post at the Washington-based bank.
A respected economist, her main task will be managing the winding down of the bank’s bond-buying stimulus programme without damaging her country’s recovering economy.
Ms Yellen, 67, had been Mr Bernanke’s deputy for three years.
U.S. – US Treasury secretary Jack Lew has issued a warning that the US could default on its debt by the end of February.
The debt ceiling was originally suspended by the US government back in October 2013 in order to end the US government shutdown but the $16.7bn (£10.2bn) limit is set to be reinstated this Friday.
Speaking yesterday in Washington, Lew warned that the US will not be able to meet debts unless Congress increases its borrowing limit. “Without borrowing authority, at some point very soon, it would not be possible to meet all of the obligations of the federal government,” he said.
He does acknowledge that the Treasury could use emerging measures, such as accounting mechanisms, as a way of paying US debts until the end of February following the reinstatement of the limit this week.
Japan – Japan’s consumer prices have risen at their fastest pace in more than five years, marking more progress in the country’s battle against deflation.
Data showed that core consumer prices, excluding fresh food, rose by 1.3% in December from a year earlier, which was higher than market forecasts.
The latest figures give a boost to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pledged to end 15 years of falling prices and revive economic growth. Japanese stocks rose by nearly 1%.
Investors were also cheered by Japan’s employment and manufacturing data released on Friday, which provided more evidence that Asia’s second-biggest economy is recovering.
Europe – Eurozone manufacturing grew strongly in January on the back of new orders, a closely-watched business survey suggests, with Germany leading the way.
Markit’s Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 54 in January, its strongest month since May 2011 – a figure above 50 indicates growth.
This compares to December’s figure of 52.7 and reflects the overall pickup in eurozone economic activity.
But France failed to break the 50 mark.
“The eurozone manufacturing recovery gained significant further momentum in January, with final PMI readings for Germany, France and the region as a whole all exceeding the earlier flash estimates,” said Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist.
Trends – Adviser sentiment towards emerging market investment has increased significantly over the last quarter, according to the latest Baring Asset Management Investment Barometer.
The fund manager said two in five (41%) advisers think their clients should increase their emerging market equity exposure. This is up eight percentage points from the previous barometer in September last year when the figure stood at 33%.
The quarterly research also found only 17% of IFAs think clients should cut back on emerging market equity exposure, down from a quarter in the previous survey.
Some 70% are either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ favourable towards emerging market equities – with only 3% ‘very’ unfavourable.
This comes despite recent figures showing an economic slowdown in China. The country’s GDP growth slowed to a 14-year low, according to latest economic figures.
Just over a third (35%) of IFAs believe slowing growth in China will be the biggest global macro-economic challenge to investment growth in the next six months – down from more than half (55%) in the previous Barometer and from 38% in the respective study in 2012.
Spotlight on: Emerging market sell-off
The latest round of selling in emerging market economies saw the MSCI EM index fall 6.6% in January. But which emerging markets suffered the worst of the sell-off?
The ongoing contagion in emerging markets has dragged down many indices – with developed as well as emerging markets all falling.
Last week, following a sharp depreciation in emerging market currencies, central banks responded with a series of rate hikes to prevent further slides.
Rather than offset currency falls, the hikes added to the panic currently embroiling emerging economies, and helped push markets down across the board.
But nowhere suffered more than EMs last month. From fears about the impact of currency depreciation versus the US dollar, to concerns over external trade imbalances and electoral risk, the sector has seen all manner of worries raised by the investment community.
In turn equity prices have slumped, with even powerhouse economies such as China seeing their exchanges sold-down sharply.
But which economies have suffered the worst falls? Unsurprisingly, Turkey was the worst performing EM losing 13.27% in January, having aggressively hiked rates after the lira lost over 30% on the dollar last month.
South Africa, which was also forced into an interest rate rise, lost 10.1%, with Brazil, Chile and Colombia making up the rest of the bottom five.
Below is a table showing the extent of their equity market losses in January. (all indices are MSCI indices)
South Africa -10.16%
But it is not all bad news. While it has been doom and gloom for many regions, there have been a few bright spots for investors across the emerging world.
A number of emerging markets protected investors’ capital in January, and others even saw some positive returns.
Egypt topped the charts, returning 6.02%, while Indonesia returned 4.26% despite being one of the EM countries with a large current account deficit.
The country was helped by improved manufacturing numbers, with Indonesian banks and miners seeing upgrades from a number of investment banks.
Greece, which was reclassified as an emerging market last year, also avoided the worst of the losses, with manufacturing data out last week showing growth for the first time since August 2009.
Below are the top five performing EMs since the start of the year.
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