On Friday, we visually documented the carnage that’s played out in EM currencies since August 11 when China moved to devalue the yuan. Here, in brief, is the backstory:
Things were already bad enough for emerging markets going into August. Persistently low commodity prices, slumping demand from China, depressed global trade, and a “diminutive” septuagenarian waving around a loaded rate hike pistol in the Eccles Building had served to put an enormous amount of pressure on the world’s emerging economies. And then, the unthinkable happened. No longer able to watch from the sidelines as the export-driven economy continued to buckle from the pain of the dollar peg, China devalued the yuan. What happened next was nothing short of a bloodbath. In short, the devaluation drove a stake through the heart of the EM world by simultaneously i) validating concerns about weak Chinese growth, thus guaranteeing further pressure on commodities, ii) delivering a staggering blow to the export competitiveness of multiple emerging economies, iii) depressing demand from the mainland by making imports more expensive.
While virtually no emerging economy has escaped the pain, some countries have suffered more than others due to their particular sensitivity to trade with China and idiosyncratic political circumstances. One of the hardest hit EMs has been Brazil, and to be sure, we haven’t been shy when it comes to documenting the country’s troubles, which can be summarized as follows: 1) twin deficits on the current and fiscal accounts, 2) political deadlock which makes closing the budget gap with austerity next to impossible, 3) a plunging currency, 4) the worst stagflation in over a decade, 5) a recession that’s projected to last for many quarters to come, 6) street protests, 7) a President with an 8% approval rating, 8) an embattled finance minister, 9) allegations of government corruption. And we could go on.
Given the above, we weren’t surprised to see Brazil at the top of RBS’ EM heat map which is presented below and should serve as a helpful guide to who’s hurting the most in the wake of China’s “surprise” entry into the global currency wars.