On Monday we laid out the rather dire road ahead for the world’s emerging economies in the face of China’s entry into the global currency wars. The path ahead is riddled with exported deflation and decreased trade competitiveness for a whole host of emerging economies [and] all of this is set against a backdrop of declining global growth and trade, a trend which many had assumed was merely cyclical, but which in fact may prove to be structural and endemic."
Well don’t look now, but trade just collapsed for Indonesia as exports and imports plunged 19.2% and 28.4% (more than double to consensus estimate), respectively in July.
Imports of raw materials dove 24%. Manufacturing and palm oil exports fell 7.1% and 2.4%, respectively, nearly tripling June’s declines. Oil and gas exports fell nearly 8%.
Meanwhile, Bank of Indonesia kept its policy rate on hold at 7.5% and indeed the bank looks to be stuck in a dilemma similar to what we described earlier this month when we noted that "EM central bankers are grappling with slumping exports and FX-pass through inflation or, more simply, bankers are caught between a 'can’t cut to boost the economy' rock and a 'can’t hike to tame inflation' hard place. The rupiah, like the Malaysian ringgit, is trading near multi-decade lows and hit its weakest level since August 1998 earlier in the session. Depressed commodity prices and slumping demand from China aren’t helping.
And neither is Beijing's devaluation of the yuan which means that suddenly, Indonesia has lost export competitiveness to China while anything China imports from Indonesia will now cost more.
"We believe there is a strong case for the central bank remaining on hold this year," Barclays notes, adding that "BI is visibly more reluctant to weaken the IDR in the near term, to avoid stoking imported price pressures [and] the commodity drag due to weaker demand from China has not subsided." Similarly, Toru Nishihama, EM economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute says the "hurdle is higher for BI to cut rate due to the rupiah’s move even though inflation will slow toward year-end due to base effect from last year’s fuel price increase." Of course cuts, even if they do come, are now less effective in terms of boosting exports as the yuan devaluation puts upward pressure on regional NEER.
In other words, there are no right answers. Just more pain and further pressure on the beleaguered economy and severely battered currency and further evidence that between China's entry into the global currency wars, depressed global commodity prices, the threat of an imminent Fed hike, and a generally lackluster environment for global demand and trade, the world's emerging markets face a perfect storm with no end in sight.