For years, investments have flown into Asia’s emerging markets, fueling their rapid growth even as the rest of the world experienced a global financial crisis, but that may be coming to an end as equities, bonds and currencies in these countries tumble in value. With exports already slumping, this could signal an alarming future for Asian countries.
After Ben Bernanke’s Wednesday announcement that U.S. policy makers may moderate their pace of bond purchases later this year -- which would pump less money into the economy -- investor confidence in emerging markets reached its lowest level since December of 2008, CNBC reported.
Just last week, emerging market equity funds saw their largest outflow of the year with investors pulling out $5.76 billion, according to data provider EPFR Global, and the three weeks up to June 12 saw more than $19 billion withdrawn from developing nation assets.
The downturn in asset prices makes sense in that loose monetary conditions in the U.S. were in large part what boosted investor confidence and funneled large flows of new money to emerging Asian markets in the first place. However, as easy money takes its leave, weaknesses underlying some of these rapidly expanding economies may become exposed, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Until a year ago, Indonesia was a favorite among emerging markets. While the rest of the world experienced an economic downturn from 2009 to 2010, Southeast Asia’s largest economy was posting year-on-year growth of 37.5 percent.
But last year, concerns about the country’s resource nationalism and proper management of public finances put a stop to the rapid growth, according to the Wall Street Journal. At the same time, cheap credit, fuel subsidies and minimum-wage increases boosted domestic demand in 2011. As a result, in April Indonesia reported a trade deficit, after exports contracted for 13 consecutive months -- and its current account flipped to a 2.7 percent deficit of GDP in 2012.
Current account deficits can be sustainable if foreign capital continues to flow into the country. But as foreign investors pull out, an economic downturn is hard to avoid. A weaker currency will also take more hot money out of the country, widening the deficit -- the potential consequences include imported inflation, lower investment and a negative domestic wealth effect, all of which could hinder growth, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Already, emerging markets in Asia are slowing down. GDP growth in the region is projected to be approximately 6 percent in 2013 and 2014, down from 9.5 percent in 2010, according to Capital Economics. With asset prices deflating, and growth slowing down, investors may be wise to reconsider betting their money in Asia.