Macro Notes provide analysis on key macro and geopolitical developments. They complement the existing IIF product line up, which includes Global Macro Views, Economic Views, in depth country reports and data.
Emerging markets are being hit by a combination of macro shocks. The key challenge is to avoid medium-term growth being impacted. A way to accomplish this is to use available monetary and fiscal space. Flexible exchange rates can and should act as automatic stabilizers. As COVID-19 continues to spread, we worry that more will be needed.
The COVID-19 shock has led to a pronounced sudden stop in EM. Out short-term portfolio tracker shows record outflows in 2020Q1. We expect a modest recovery in capital flows in the 2nd half of 2020. Nevertheless, capital flows to EM will be much weaker than in 2019. Given uneven EM policy space, multilateral support will be needed.
We believe multilateral support will be critical for South Africa going forward. Moody’s rating downgrade will likely trigger further capital outflows in 2020Q2. This will continue the pressure on the ZAR, which we have flagged as overvalued. Economic contraction and higher funding costs will likely make debt unsustainable.
We now expect a recession in CEEMEA as a result of COVID-19. CEE will be affected by Euro area contraction but has policy space. ussia’s buffers and flexible Ruble should reduce impact on growth. Lower growth will markedly worsen debt dynamics in South Africa. Recession concerns could trigger further policy easing in Turkey.
Russia is more insulated from external shocks than other EMs but not immune. We expect the economy to contract in ‘20, down from our previous forecast of 2%. Its flexible exchange rate puts Russia at a distinct advantage compared to 2014. Most importantly, authorities have ample policy space to address challenges.
A coordinated policy response to COVID-19 would be the first best but is not imminent. Some key emerging markets have sufficient fiscal policy space and should react quickly. The Fed’s cut gives EMs monetary flexibility, including Mexico, Russia, and South Africa.
South Africa’s 2020 budget was well-received by financial markets. The proposed adjustment is largely driven by cuts to the wage bill. Savings are just enough to offset weaker revenue due to weak growth. Thus, public debt is still set to increase to ~70% of GDP by FY22/23. Key risks remain low growth, union resistance, and struggling SOEs.
Real convergence in Sub-Saharan Africa has been weak despite robust growth. We believe that low total factor productivity growth is partially responsible. Furthermore, relatively weak investment is weighing on economic activity. As population growth slows, both will be key for standard-of-living gains.
Sanctions on a highly-integrated economy such as Russia are still unprecedented. Unforeseen and unintended consequences could significantly shake up markets. The impact is likely most significant for asset managers and banking institutions. But further consequences for the underlying market infrastructure are possible.
The debate on U.S. sanctions on sovereign debt is expected to continue in '20. Low macroeconomic vulnerabilities will likely limit the impact on Russia. U.S. investors would lose out given investments in Russian domestic debt. Unintended consequences could also significantly shake up global markets.