Developing Economies Face Reckoning

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, while today’s global economic crunch was made in America, the pain will be shared by developing nations from Turkey to Thailand since many emerging markets are reliant on exports to rich countries.  While local sources of economic growth, including consumer spending, have taken root in China and elsewhere, they aren’t enough to keep developing countries from slowing if their export engines sputter.  As the article notes:

“…No country can decouple from the U.S.,” said Kamal Nath, India’s trade minister, at Davos. “The question is the impact.”

American consumers hold far greater sway over the world economy’s fate than do their counterparts in the big emerging markets: They spent about $9.5 trillion last year — nearly six times as much as Chinese and Indian consumers between them, said Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley in Asia.

…That isn’t to say emerging markets are headed for disaster. China, by far the largest emerging economy, is still on track to grow strongly in 2008. That could keep commodity prices from collapsing — despite the latest fears of a correction. Chinese demand, in turn, should help sustain resource-rich countries in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Economists at Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto predict that commodity prices will remain at historically high levels for a long time to come because of China, which accounted for between 60% and 90% of the increase in world demand for steel, aluminum and copper between 2000 and 2006.

Emerging-market spending on infrastructure also is likely to continue. China’s latest five-year plan calls for more than $100 billion in railway construction, including a $22 billion Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed railway. Russia, India and oil-rich Middle Eastern countries are nearly as ambitious…

…In the late 1990s, several emerging markets ran out of foreign reserves and defaulted on debts. In the decade since, some have built huge war chests. Brazil sits on a cushion of $185 billion. Russia has stored some of the country’s oil revenues in a fund valued at $160 billion. In all, emerging markets have an estimated $4.1 trillion in central-bank reserves.

“This time we have something of a vaccine when the U.S. sneezes,” says Claudio X. Gonzalez, chairman of Kimberly-Clark de Mexico SA, referring to Mexico’s estimated $7 billion on hand from oil-export revenues, a recent sale of toll roads, and other sources. “This extra money won’t entirely free us from the effects of a U.S. slowdown, but it should help….”

This entry was posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008 at 12:02 pm and is filed under Brazil, China, India, Russia.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.