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Jonathan Wheatley

Jonathan Wheatley is the FT's deputy emerging markets editor. He was Brazil correspondent from 2005 to 2011, when he moved to London. He lived in São Paulo from 1992, writing for the FT, Business Week, the Economist Intelligence Unit and many others. He previously worked in television news, current affairs and documentaries in London.

In the long-running battle between contagion and differentiation in emerging markets, contagion currently has the upper hand. That’s hardly surprising when you look at the size of the shock coming out of Russia and the failure of Monday night’s 650 basis point interest rate rise to deal with it. Nothing on this scale has been seen since 1998.

Rouble per US dollar, year to date. Source: Thomson Reuters

But contagion is not absolute and some EM currencies are bucking this month’s sharp falls, at least for now. Below, we present charts that show how the big EM currencies are faring in these times of extreme stress. Read more

With only a couple of weeks left in the year, Brazil watches are still revising downward their view on GDP growth for 2014. The central bank’s latest weekly survey of about 100 market economists has GDP growth coming in at a feeble 0.16 per cent this year, down from 0.18 per cent a week ago and 0.21 per cent a month ago. The consensus for 2015 is also sliding: just 0.69 per cent growth is expected in this week’s report, down from 0.73 per cent last week and 0.8 per cent a month ago.

Those looking for a silver lining to this darkening cloud may argue that it reflects a conviction among analysts that Brazil’s new economics team under Joaquim Levy at the finance ministry (pictured above) is serious about reining in the public deficit and that this, while positive in the long term, will dampen growth in the interim. Read more

Economic growth across emerging markets is expected to reach an annual rate of 3.9 per cent in the final quarter of this year, slightly up on the estimated 3.7 per cent in the third quarter, according to the Institute of International Finance. But the IIF’s Coincident Indicator, based on 41 macroeconomic variables that it says are highly correlated to EM growth, shows growth is still well below the average rate of 4.5 per cent seen in 2012 and 2013.

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A reminder for Brazil’s new finance minister, if he needed one, of the task ahead: the country’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, prepared by Markit Economics for HSBC, fell from 49.1 to 48.7 in November, its lowest level in 16 months.

November’s PMI followed the central bank’s weekly survey of market economists, also out on Monday, which showed the consensus on GDP growth falling yet again, to 0.19 per cent this year and to 0.77 per cent in 2015. Read more

It was close, but they didn’t make it. The political fixers of Brazil’s government had hoped to push through a bill on Wednesday that would have removed its obligation to meet a target of a primary fiscal surplus (before debt payments) of 1.9 per cent of GDP in this year’s budget.

The hope was that the bill would have been passed in time for the expected announcement on Thursday of a new economics team, widely tipped to be led by Joaquim Levy as finance minister. Success would, in a way, have swept out the old team’s jiggery pokery over public accounts before ushering in the new brooms of team Levy. Now it will just have to be done after the event. Read more

An index of confidence among Brazilian manufacturers suggests things aren’t as grim as all that, after an index of consumer confidence published on Tuesday hit a post-crisis low.

But the uptick in the manufacturing confidence index produced by the Fundação Getulio Vargas – the same academic institution that prepared the consumer index – does not bear close inspection.

Source: FGV/IBRE. Click to enlarge

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Portfolio flows to emerging markets rebounded in November after several months of weakness, according to the latest EM Portfolio Flows Tracker from the Institute of International Finance. Flows for the month were estimated at $25.5bn, consisting of $8.8bn to bonds and $16.7bn to equities, the IIF said.

Click to enlarge

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Another reminder of the challenges facing Dilma Rousseff as she struggles to put together an economic team for her second term in office: consumer confidence is at its lowest ebb since the depths of the global financial crisis in December 2008.

Source: FGV/IBRE

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A fascinating note has arrived in our inbox from Steven Holden of Copley Fund Research, which tracks the investments of 100 big global EM equity funds with about $285bn of assets under management.

Readers may remember a recent piece based on his monthly report in October, showing that big fund managers were predominantly underweight in China compared with the MSCI Emerging Markets index, and overweight in India. An analysis of data from his November report shows that, on average, managers are in line with the MSCI regarding Russia – but that, individually, they diverge greatly from the index, in ways that suggest contrasting views on the crisis in Ukraine and how to play it as an investor. Read more

Ministers resign all the time and there’s nothing unusual about one of them handing in his or her notice as the head of government is preparing to unveil a new cabinet for a second term in office. But Marta Suplicy’s resignation as Brazil’s minister of culture on Tuesday had a peculiar sting in the tail.

After the usual stuff about how happy she was to have achieved all she had done in the job, Suplicy delivered what journalists sometimes refer to as a “nut paragraph”: Read more

When Dilma Rousseff was re-elected as president of Brazil on October 26, she promised to be a much better president than she had been during her first term (which ends on December 31). Whatever she meant by that, analysts do not seem to believe it will result in a pick up in economic growth. The central bank’s latest weekly survey of market economists, on the contrary, shows the consensus on GDP growth this year falling to just 0.2 per cent (the black line in the chart) and that for 2015 falling to a not much better 0.8 per cent (the red line). Read more

Source: Thomson Reuters

The Russian rouble dived deeper to new lows on Friday, as the central bank’s decision on Wednesday to let the currency float failed spectacularly to put a floor under the exchange rate. It went briefly through Rbs48 to the dollar during the morning before recovering slightly, down from a low of Rbs45 to the dollar on Wednesday.

“People are in disbelief. The rouble is being smashed again,” said Timothy Ash of Standard Bank. “The central bank is nowhere.” Read more

What you see above is a graphic representation of something anyone who followed the campaign that led to the re-election of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil’s president on October 26 already knows: the election was the most polarised in the country’s history.

Brasil was split down the middle, not only numerically (Dilma got 52 per cent, Aécio Neves 48) and geographically (Dilma won in the less developed north, Aécio in the more prosperous south). The twitterspere, too, was divided into two camps. Not only that; they hardly talked to each other at all. Read more

More evidence of the slowdown afflicting emerging markets: bank lending conditions have dipped back into negative territory. So finds a report to be published today by the Institute of International Finance. The tightening in the third quarter of the year follows an improvement in the second quarter and was driven by weaker demand for credit and a significant increase in non-performing loans, according to the IIF.

Felix Huefner, the IIF’s deputy director for global macroeconomic analysis, said the deterioration in bank lending on the demand side had come even as funding conditions, on the supply side, had shown some improvement. But he said even those conditions had become more challenging at the end of the quarter. Read more

Of the many resources used by Dilma Rousseff’s campaign managers in Brazil’s close-fought and acrimonious presidential election, one of the most striking was a simple, full-face photograph. The original was taken 44 years ago, when the 22-year-old Rousseff was under arrest as a member of the armed resistance to Brazil’s military dictatorship. What was already a striking portrait has been worked on and reshaped to produce something truly powerful, an image verging on the iconic that is packed with significance not only for Brazil’s past and present but also, who knows, for its future. Read more