The External Debt Of The Emerging Market Economies

Written by Joseph Joyce

The outflow of money from emerging markets this year will most likely surpass inflows for the first time since 2008, and net capital outflows may total $541 billion according to the Institute of International Finance. The flows have been accompanied by currency depreciations, stock market collapses, and in the case of Brazil, a downgrade in its credit rating to junk bond status. The IMF has responded to this turbulence by lowering its forecast for growth in the emerging markets and developing economies this year from 4.2% to 4%.

The emerging market nations that export commodities have been particularly hard hit, as China cuts back on its imports of raw materials and commodity prices plunge. Other factors that could signal further weakness are declining foreign exchange reserves, current account deficits and political uncertainty. Countries besides Brazil that have been identified as most vulnerable to further downturns include Russia, Venezuela, Turkey and Indonesia. When the long-awaited increase in U.S. interest rates finally does take place, the rise in the cost of borrowing in dollars will exacerbate the position of these countries.

There is another factor that will affect how an external shock will affect economic performance: the composition of a country’s external balance sheet. This records the holdings of foreign assets held by domestic residents and domestic liabilities held by foreigners. A country’s net international investment position (NIIP) as a creditor or debtor depends on the difference between its assets and liabilities. Both assets and liabilities can take the form of equity, which includes foreign direct investment (FDI) and portfolio equity, or debt in the form of bonds and bank loans. In addition, countries may hold assets in the form of foreign exchange reserves at their central banks.

Assets are denominated in foreign currencies, particularly the dollar, while equity liabilities are denominated in the home currency. Debt liabilities may be denominated in the domestic or a foreign currency. Foreign lenders who are concerned about the government’s macroeconomic policies—a phenomenon known as “original sin”—may insist that bonds be issued in dollars.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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