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Monday, June 17, 2024

Political Dynamics in Mexico, South Africa, and India Move Markets

Recent turmoil in the heavyweight markets of South Africa, Mexico, and India has underscored that politics can still deliver a surprising blow in major emerging economies.

Mexico’s peso and South Africa’s rand continued to decline on Tuesday following unexpected election outcomes in their respective countries. Meanwhile, the uncertainty over whether Narendra Modi secured a landslide victory in India’s marathon elections caused a significant drop in its equity markets.

The peso fell 1.5% to just shy of 18 to the U.S. dollar at one point as traders continued to worry about the implications of the resounding win by the Claudia Sheinbaum-led MORENA party and its allies in Sunday’s Mexican election.

This brought the peso’s recent decline to nearly 5%, putting June on track to be the peso’s worst month since its 17% plunge at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

South Africa’s rand, which has also been hit by the prospect of a potentially fraught coalition government after a poor election showing from the ruling ANC party, fell another 1.3% too , to take its fall over the last week to around 3.5%.

Also Read: Bitwise Predicts $20T Crypto Boom Amid US Political Shifts

“This is all a reminder of the importance of political risk events,” said Graham Stock, a senior emerging market sovereign strategist at RBC Bluebay Asset Management.

“You go into these events with a base case, but if you underestimate the tails and they materialise, then it is going to surprise market participants.”

Taiwan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey have all held important elections this year but this week’s trio have triggered the most dramatic market reactions so far.

Indian shares swooned almost 6% on Tuesday in what was their heaviest fall since the COVID rout – a move all the more jarring after they had hit record highs on Monday.

With over half the votes counted from an election that began back in April, Prime Minister Modi looked set to lose his majority, raising questions whether the new alliance he spearheads will need to spend more on welfare measures rather than key infrastructure projects and reforms.

Analysts at brokerage Emkay Global said that difficult but potentially beneficial changes to land and labour policies, along with privatisation of some of India’s big state-run firms, were now “off the table”.


The jitters had also pushed up India’s government borrowing costs in the bond markets, while the rupee dropped 0.5% against the dollar which, although not seismic, was its biggest fall in 16 months.

“The India stock market reaction today was the classic whiplash where people got overexcited,” said Ashmore’s Head of Research, Gustavo Medeiros, referring to the recent record highs.

International investors have been buying into both India and Mexico over the last year or two as an alternative to China, meaning that they had been susceptible to a selloff, he added. But he said it was reassuring that there had been no real EM-wide “contagion”.

In terms of Mexico, he cautioned that the “window of most concern” could still be ahead, however.

Come September, outgoing president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be in his last weeks of power and could try to use MORENA’s new “super majority” to ram through previously rejected constitutional changes.

The election campaign in the neighbouring U.S. will also be ramping up and Kieran Curtis, who heads EM local currency debt for EM-focused fund manager abrdn, thinks that is now the big crunch vote to watch for in analysing emerging markets.

With the unpredictable Donald Trump promising harsh new trade tariffs and strong anti-China, U.S.-first policies as well as other shake-ups if he regains power, it will be crucial.

Curtis said that with most of the big EM elections now complete, the U.S. was the crucial vote to watch, noting that as it will be highly populist and had some major underlying debt issues, the contest had certain EM-like characteristics itself.

“That is going to be the one that everybody really watches after this month,” he said.

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