Stress levels rose in emerging markets on Thursday as Argentina’s peso and Turkey’s lira slumped to record lows in what looked like classic currency attacks and shares fell for the third day. The pressure was widespread against the backdrop of a rising dollar and global borrowing rates and after more unpredictable behaviour on metal export tariffs from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration towards Brazil overnight. It combined to push MSCI’s 24-country emerging market stocks index towards a three-month low though tensions were highest in foreign exchange markets.
Argentina’s peso slumped over 3 percent to an all-time low of 21.2 per dollar despite heavy intervention from its central bank just days after an emergency interest rate hike. Turkey then saw the lira slide 0.4 percent to an all-time trough of 4.21 to the dollar, as another jump in inflation there added to jitters caused by a rating downgrade this week and government plans to up spending. “You have this vicious circle of a deteriorating inflation outlook, a weaker currency and a central bank that is behind the curve,” said ING’s Chief EMEA FX and interest rate strategist, Petr Krpata.
Pressure also remained on the Central and Eastern European currencies that were some of last year’s best performers in the world. The Czech central bank was expected to keep its rates steady at a meeting later but the slide in the crown against both the dollar and the euro has boosted chances of another hike later in the year, Krpata added. The region was also digesting news that from 2021 the European Union will cut funds paid out to member states that undermine courts and the rule of law, a move that could cost Hungary and Poland millions of euros.
Eurosceptic nationalists who have come to power in some former Communist states of eastern Europe have clashed with Brussels over what the EU describes as curbs to freedom of the media and violations of other democratic norms. In Asia overnight, Indonesia’s rupiah had fallen to its lowest in more than two years as foreign investors continued to sell their positions in the local bond and equity markets.
Indonesian stock exchange and Ministry of Finance data showed foreigners sold securities worth $684 million in equity markets and $967 million in bonds in April. It was not all one way traffic however. The Singapore dollar and the Thai baht rose 0.25 percent and 0.15 percent respectively. The Indian rupee and the South Korean won also edged up on the day, the latter buoyed by an ongoing improvement of relations with North Korea.
In Latin America though there had been more gloomy news for turmoil-ridden Venezuela as the IMF issued a “declaration of censure” against Venezuela for failing to provide necessary economic data. The United States cut off metals tariff talks with Brazil, contradicting an earlier U.S. announcement that the two countries had reached a permanent exemption from steel and aluminium import tariffs.
Representatives for Brazil’s industry decried U.S. negotiation tactics, which the head of the association for aluminium producers, Milton Rego, called “Al Capone-like.” “You get better results by pointing a gun to the head,” he said.