Emerging Asia is set to be the world’s fastest-growing region again in 2015, skirting the contagion from Russia’s crisis and riding the fall-out from weak commodity prices, according to Fitch, the credit rating agency. Nevertheless, structural frailties stalk seven out of 10 countries in the region, with surging debt levels a particular concern, the agency said.

The region, excluding China, is expected to expand by 5.9 per cent in 2015 and 6.1 per cent in 2016 – compared to an average for global emerging markets of 4.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively, Fitch said in a report. These forecasts compare with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) estimates that developing economies would this year grow at 4.3 per cent, accelerating to 4.7 per cent in 2016. Read more

Unexpectedly early interest rate cuts in India, Peru and Egypt on Thursday indicate that falling oil prices and gathering disinflationary pressures are accelerating a cycle of monetary easing in many emerging market economies, analysts said on Friday.

The easing in key EM economies – added to expectations that several more countries will also cut rates – stands in stark contrast to a recent market consensus that 2015 would herald upward pressure on EM rates as the US Federal Reserve espoused a tighter policy, analysts said. Read more

The skidding prices of oil and other commodities are starting to cleave sharp divisions between those emerging market (EM) regions, countries and industries that are suffering and those that are starting to reap some benefit.

Data released by Capital Economics on Thursday revealed emerging Asia as the only EM region to register export growth in November last year. By contrast, the value of exports from emerging Europe, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa was dragged significantly lower during the month (see chart). Read more

Guo Guangchang, an entrepreneur who claims inspiration from China’s oldest sages - as well as from the “sage of Omaha”, Warren Buffett – has topped an inaugural ranking of the wealthiest Chinese investors with a personal fortune estimated at $4.5bn.

Guo (above), 48, typifies the eclectic acquisitiveness of China’s emerging cohort of investors. His company, Fosun International, this month won the longest takeover battle in French history by beating Italian investor Andrea Bonomi to take control of Club Méditerranée, the vacation organiser, after a 16-month wrestling match. Read more

China’s “big four” state banks are losing share in the country’s fast-growing retail banking market as customers embrace a more sophisticated array of products and swell a burgeoning fashion for digital banking, according to a survey of savers conducted by McKinsey, the consultancy.

The main beneficiary from the slide of the “big four” – the Agricultural Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Bank of China and the China Construction Bank – have been the joint-stock commercial banks, which include institutions such as China Merchants Bank, China Everbright Bank and CITIC Bank. Read more

A severe slump in Russia and ebbing momentum in China contributed to an overall subdued performance for manufacturers across emerging markets (EM) in December last year, according to a compilation of data published on Tuesday.

The overall purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reading for EM manufacturing edged down from 51 points to 50.9 points in December (see chart), according to a Capital Economics compilation of data collected by Markit, the research company. The number suggests that while EM manufacturing activity is still expanding, the pace of that expansion is slowing. Read more

Portfolio flows into emerging markets (EM) suffered their sharpest slump in December since the 2013 “taper tantrum” as the Russian currency crisis and sliding oil prices intensified risk aversion among both equity and debt investors, according to estimates by the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a global association of financial institutions.

The IIF’s EM Portfolio Flows Tracker, released on Tuesday, estimated total outflows from EM at $11.5bn during the month, with flows out of debt accounting for $7.8bn and flows out of equities reaching $3.7bn. The only EM area to register net inflows was emerging Asia, following foreign buying of Indian bonds and equity issuance throughout the region (see chart). Read more

Bahrain, Angola, Ecuador and Venezuela rank as the emerging markets (EM) most vulnerable to a downgrade in their sovereign credit ratings if oil prices do not recover in 2015, Fitch Ratings said in a report published on Tuesday.

With benchmark Brent crude prices close to $80 a barrel, down from $115 a barrel in mid-June, the revenues of all oil producers are under pressure. But due to differing levels of fiscal reliance on oil income, the speed of deterioration in domestic budgetary conditions varies sharply among EM producers. Read more

As Alan Beattie wrote recently, a clear divergence in monetary policy is polarising the emerging market (EM) universe. Some countries, such as China last Friday, have cut interest rates to invigorate demand while others, such as Russia and Brazil, have had to hike rates to battle inflation.

The divide is growing starker, forming a basic template for EM investors. Softer oil and commodity prices are subduing inflation in most countries, creating room for easier monetary conditions. Other countries, however, are still struggling with ideosyncratic frailties, preventing them from capitalising on the ebbing EM prices. Read more

Zhou Xiaochan, China's central bank governorClearly, China’s interest rate cut on Friday was motivated by a desire to manage a flagging growth story. But the announcement also revealed a few sub-plots, which together may say more about Beijing’s mindset than the dominant narrative.

The first point, several analysts said, is that Beijing’s monetary easing may well have further to run, following the decision by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) to cut its benchmark lending rate by 0.4 percentage points to 5.6 per cent, while cutting its deposit rate by 0.25 per cent to 2.75 per cent. Read more

“If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.”

For about two weeks in late October, it seemed as if these optimistic words from Calvin Coolidge, the former US president, might have encapsulated the mindset of emerging market (EM) investors.

But the late October rally in EM financial assets has now stalled. Investors are relinquishing hopes that market troubles may turn out to be mere phantoms and focusing again on the very real problems coming their way. Four of the most intractable are set out below. Read more

Unofficial readings on China’s industrial activity released on Thursday add to a sense that the underlying economic vibrancy of the world’s second largest economy may have continued its ebbing trend into October.

This may surprise those who bought into the notion that industrial output rebounded strongly in September, rising to 8 per cent year on year, up from 6.9 per cent in August. In fact, though, that September “rebound” was largely the result of a big statistical base effect, according to China Confidential research.

Similarly, the announcement on Thursday of a pick up in HSBC/Markit’s manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) to 50.4 in October so far – up from 50.2 in September – is misleading. In fact, readings on manufacturing output and new orders – the key measures of industrial vibrancy – revealed markedly weaker trends. Read more

A reported export surge in September is failing to dispel the gloom suffusing forecasts for China’s third quarter GDP growth, which several economists predict will slump to a five-year low.

One problem lies with the export numbers themselves, which raise suspicions that over-invoicing may once again be artificially inflating export statistics as Chinese smuggle hot money into the mainland from Hong Kong to take advantage of an appreciating renminbi. Read more

China corruptionEmerging market (EM) currencies have tumbled against the US dollar over the past three months – with a single exception. Not only has the renminbi resisted kowtowing to the resurgent greenback, it has strengthened against it even as the currencies of its BRIC counterparts – the real, the rouble and the rupee – have fallen 7.8 per cent, 14.3 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively since July.

This raises an obvious question: for how long can the renminbi refuse to accept the US dollar renaissance? Read more

The slowing Chinese economy and unwinding of US quantitative easing have squeezed emerging market bonds. However, Brett Diment at Aberdeen Asset Management sees an opportunity in local currency EM debt, as he explains to FT’s EM editor James Kynge.

A surge in fake invoicing is once again inflating China’s export figures, according to a survey, raising questions over a mysterious recent ballooning in Beijing’s trade surplus and suggesting that inflows of hot money may be rising.

A survey of executives at 200 export companies, trading firms and shipping agents in China in September revealed a spike in the number of respondents who think over-invoicing of exports is resurgent (see chart). The levels are reminiscent of late 2013, when hot money inflows prompted a managed depreciation of the renminbi. Read more

The US dollar surged again on Wednesday against a basket of emerging market (EM) currencies, adding urgency to the question of which EM countries are most vulnerable to a receding “carry trade”, the multitrillion dollar flow that has swollen domestic debt markets since 2009.

A soaring dollar piles pressure onto EM carry trade investors, who typically borrow dollars at low interest rates in order to buy high yielding EM domestic debt. When the dollar surges, they suffer currency losses that offset their interest rate gains, prompting them to sell. Read more

A closely-watched indicator of economic activity in China is showing an unexpectedly robust reading for September, according to an announcement on Tuesday. But is a real growth rebound underway, following several signs of a slowdown in the third quarter so far?

Hong Kong stock market investors appeared to reserve judgement, allowing the Hang Seng index to slip 0.49 per cent, or 118 points on Tuesday to 23,837. Economists and other survey-based indicators of Chinese economic activity reinforced the skepticism. Read more

Unhealthy lifestyles are spreading through emerging market (EM) economies as people adopt fast-food diets, work in stressful and sedentary jobs and contend with worsening pollution. These are unwelcome trends unless, perhaps, you happen to be an investor in EM healthcare stocks.

A proliferation in ailments, rising incomes and growing government support for healthcare in EM countries are bolstering the portfolios of Sectoral Asset Management, a fund company with about $3.5bn under management. In March this year, it publicly launched a fund invested solely in EM healthcare companies. Read more