Emerging Markets Beyond Turkey

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Worsening relations with the U.S. have spurred a sharp selloff in Turkish assets and exposed economic weaknesses such as large external debt loads and rampant inflation. We see many of these problems as unique to Turkey, yet other EMs have felt the heat. We remain wary of markets with high debt and deteriorating growth, and see long-term opportunities in regions with sound fundamentals, such as EM Asia.

Rising macro uncertainty, higher interest rates and a strengthening U.S. dollar have led to a modest tightening of global financial conditions. This has laid bare vulnerabilities that had, until recently been masked by plentiful global liquidity. Countries reliant on external borrowing to fund growth and large current account deficits—such as Turkey and Argentina—have suffered the most, as the chart above shows. Currencies of both have lost more than 40% against the U.S. dollar this year to date. Yet both Turkey and Argentina are relative outliers within the EM world. Many other EM countries, especially in Asia, appear healthier with improving current account balances. And structural reforms in countries such as China and India are likely to put economies on the path to more sustainable, long-term growth, in our view. 

Look east

Investors have latched onto Turkey’ s weak fundamentals—bubbling under the surface for years—and rushed for the exits after the country‘s relations with the U.S. took a sharp turn for the worse. Turkey’s woes have brought into sharp focus the dangers of a reliance on external debt-fueled growth. We believe the weakness could persist as markets are skeptical that Turkey will take the necessary steps to address these underlying issues.

The dent to broad EM sentiment is undeniable. Currencies, especially of countries dependent on borrowing in dollars, have sold off. Outflows from equity and debt funds have resumed, according to EPFR. Poor equities and debt performance in 2018 after two strong years has dampened investor appetite. Some safe-haven assets now offer positive real returns and investors see brighter prospects in markets such as the U.S. If the latest proposed U.S. sanctions come down hard on Russia, this could further dent sentiment on EMs.

Yet the risks of economic or financial contagion to other regions are low, we believe, as several of Turkey’s challenges are unique. Geographical proximity has raised concerns about the impact on Europe. Turkey represents about 3% of euro-zone exports, equivalent to less than 1% of euro-zone GDP, according to the IMF. Turkish loans make up only a small proportion of euro-zone bank lending. Turkish stocks constitute less than 1% of the MSCI EM equity index. And we believe strong earnings growth and attractive valuations overall in EM equities compensate for the risks. Strong growth in developed markets still supports EM economies.

Bottom Line

The prospect of a bumpier road ahead for markets raises the importance of portfolio resilience, a key theme of our midyear Global Investment Outlook. We recommend sticking with markets with strong fundamentals and companies with strong balance sheets. China’s growth is poised to benefit from policy support in the near term. China and India are two of our top EM Asia equity picks. We are neutral on EM debt, with a preference for selected hard- over local-currency debt.

Courtesy of Richard Turnill, BlackRock’s global chief investment strategist and a regular contributor to The BlackRock Blog (more by BlackRock here). 

Investing involves risks, including possible loss of principal.International investing involves special risks including, but not limited to currency fluctuations, illiquidity and volatility. These risks may be heightened for investments in emerging markets. This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of August 2018 and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and non-proprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Index performance is shown for illustrative purposes only. You cannot invest directly in an index.©2018 BlackRock, Inc. All rights reserved. BLACKROCK is a registered trademark of BlackRock, Inc., or its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. USR0818U-579100-1823248 


The views and opinions expressed herein are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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