EM investors face political risks in 2014

EM investors face political risks in 2014

As the tidal wave of global central bank liquidity recedes in 2014, emerging market (EM) investors are growing more anxious about local political risks - and how to spot them early on.

Developing economies have had a rough ride since the US Federal Reserve first mooted a wind-down of its money printing last year. The looming withdrawal of easy cash worldwide pushed the dollar and Treasury yields up and drove Western investors home, jarring countries most dependent on foreign capital.

Emerging market bonds posted only their third year in the red since 1998 last year, while emerging equities ended 2013 in the red for the second year in three.

And as the global investment tide sweeps out, it may reveal a beach strewn with political detritus. As competition for funds hots up while their economies rapidly lose steam, political risks have been amplified in the so-called 'Fragile Five' of Turkey, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Brazil. All five face elections this year, adding to brewing local concerns over a deepening corruption probe in Turkey or the waning popularity of South Africa's and Brazil's leaders.

South Africa and India hold parliamentary elections in 2014, while Brazil and Turkey have presidential elections. Indonesia has both. In fact, 12 of the major emerging markets go to the polls in this year.

“2014 will be a year in which the return impact from idiosyncratic political events in emerging markets could increase substantially,” asset manager M&G Investments told clients this week. “The prospect of these elections could potentially reduce the net capital flows into these economies on a temporary basis," it added.

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