Turmoil, panic, retreat: it’s not been a pretty start to the year for emerging market currencies and stock markets. Here, in seven charts, is the story of 2014 so far.
1. The equity context
As the base of the turmoil is the reverse of the post-crisis trend in capital flows, which began last summer on talk of the Fed taper. Money is leaving the emerging markets and returning to Europe. EPFR Global, which tracks investment flows, estimates that emerging market equity outflows hit $12.2bn in January.
News that Lloyds has raised to an eye-watering £9.8bn its provisions to cover claims over the mis-selling of payment protection performance (PPI) is a reminder the issue is far from over for UK banks.
The big five high street banks have set aside just under £20bn to date to cover both compensation and the associated administrative costs of assessing claims. Lloyds is by far the worst hit of the major UK banks, but the sums set aside by the others are still substantial.
If you follow a certain section of the internet, over the last day your news feed has probably been buzzing with obscure clues to cryptography, William Blake’s poetry, transcendentalism and of course Cicada images.
If not, you’d be forgiven for wondering what this is all about.
So what is it this all about?
Back in January 2012, on one the biggest websites you’ve probably never heard of, there was a clue. The /x/ (paranormal) board of 4chan, an anarchic image posting forum, featured an image, with simple white on black text declaring:
And so the first trail began. An elaborate rabbit warren of a hunt using codes and ciphers and requiring knowledge of philosophy and, cyber punk among much else to follow the clues – which included posters stuck to telegraph poles around the globe.
What would the UK capital look like if you mapped its amenities only using open data? This image, created as a piece of art work for the London Open Data Summit, offers one answer.
News this week that Repsol looks increasingly likely to accept a settlement from Argentina’s government over the forced nationalisation of its YPF subsidiary, makes a new paper from Chatham House on clashes over mineral contracts very timely.
The report suggests there is a clear correlation between rising oil prices and the number of disputes in the extractive industry (think oil, minerals and metals).
A deal with cash-strapped Ukraine was originally supposed to be the centerpiece of today’s “Eastern Partnership” EU summit in Lithuania. But last week Ukraine froze plans to sign the EU integration agreement in favour of overtures from Russia.
The trade deal with the EU was expected to stimulate much-needed investment flows to Ukraine and exports via the removal of trade tariffs. But as this was contingent on reforms, benefits were likely to be longer term. A deal with Russia on the other hand – potentially a lowering of the price at which the country imports gas – could give a short term fillip to the economy.
Here is why Ukraine’s economy desperately needs a boost.
First, and most crucially, is the question of Ukraine’s falling foreign exchange reserves.
As of October, foreign reserves stood at $20.6bn, down $6bn in the last year and only just covering three-months worth of imports – a level seen as the danger zone by many economists. And even under the most benign scenario projected UniCredit modeled this August see reserves falling further: