Emerging Market Currencies Collapse, Concern for Contagion Increases
NEW YORK (MainStreet) The losses that began in May are rapidly mounting as emerging market currencies experience their worst selloff in five years. The shifting U.S. monetary policy and increasing concerns for the Chinese economy as well as continuing political unrest in Turkey, Argentina and the Ukraine seem to be hastening the decline.
The currency carnage is widespread: The Turkish lira has hit a record low, Ukraine's hryvnia is touching four-year lows, and South Africa's rand has fallen to levels that haven't been seen since 2008. The Argentine government devalued its peso, allowing it to fall 15% -- its steepest drop since 2002.
Meanwhile, the Russian ruble has fallen to a five-year low. "The ruble is trading in line with other currencies of emerging and commodity markets but the situation is close to panic," Nikolay Frolov, a dealer at Moscow-based Promsvyazbank told the Wall Street Journal.
"The current environment is potentially very toxic for emerging markets," Eamon Aghdasi, a strategist at Societe Generale SA in New York, said in an interview with Bloomberg. "You have two very troubling things: uncertainty about the Fed policy, combined with concerns about growth, particularly in China. It's difficult to justify that it's time to go out and buy emerging markets at the moment."
"We expect the emerging market sell-off to get worse before it starts getting better," Lorne Baring, managing director of B Capital Wealth Management in Geneva told Reuters. "There's definitely contagion spreading and it's crossing over from emerging to developed [markets] in terms of sentiment."
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet