In less than two months, a dizzying array of global central banks have lowered interest rates. The European Central Bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Reserve Bank of India, the Bank of Israel, the Central Bank of Turkey and the list goes on.
When the domino effect will end is anyone's guess, but it does not appear the end is near. The U.S. and Japan have little or no room for further rate cuts, but plenty of other countries do. Many are emerging markets economies where central banks' hands are being forced due to strengthening currencies.
Other prime candidates for additional rate-cutting are developed markets with significant commodities and/or emerging markets exposure. What is clear is the path of least resistance for international interest rates is lower in the near term, and the following country-specific equity-based ETFs stand to be affected.
iShares MSCI Turkey Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEARCA:TUR)
Earlier this week, Turkey's Monetary Policy Committee lowered rates by 50 basis points to 4.5 percent after the country previously said its first-quarter GDP will be weaker than expected. Bankers there said the move was made largely to keep Turkey in line with what other countries are doing on the rate-cutting front.
Turkey's rate reduction also comes just six months after Fitch Ratings gave the country its first investment grade rating in almost two decades and as the country is angling for a credit ratings boost from the other major ratings agencies.
At 4.5 percent, Turkey has plenty of room to pare rates further, though it is noteworthy that the country's rate trajectory has been plunging since the savage inflation seen there earlier this century. Those keeping score at home will want to know Turkish rates could go as low as South Korea's at 2.5 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Speaking of South Korea...
While EWY has picked up the pace recently, the ETF is up 2.7 percent in the past month, the Bank of Korea's piddly rate cut is akin to fighting the Bank of Japan's bazooka with a squirt gun. More of problem for South Korea and EWY is that the yen currently trades against the won at levels that were close to where they were when BoK announced its rate cut.
iShares MSCI Israel Capped Investable Market Index Fund (NYSEARCA:EIS)
On Monday, the Bank of Israel lowered interest rates by 25 basis points to 1.5 percent while unveiling a plan to purchase $2.1 billion in foreign currency in an effort to weaken the country's currency, the shekel. Israel's emerging status as a natural gas exporter has boosted the shekel, which prompted the rate cut.
There was immediate enthusiasm for the rate cut, but $1 currently buys about 3.64 shekels, roughly the same level that was seen a month ago. With an interest rate of 1.5 percent, the Bank of Israel may have no choice but to take a page from the Federal Reserve's playbook and take rates as low as possible without going to zero.
As for EIS, the ETF is up almost 0.4 percent since the rate cut was announced.
Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF (NYSEARCA:NORW)
Call this a speculative play, particularly because the Norges Bank recently left rates unchanged at 1.5 percent. While much of the bull case for NORW centers around Norway's strong government balance sheet, massive sovereign wealth fund and AAA credit rating, the country has a currency problem and one that is being made worse by rival Denmark's peg to the euro.
The Norwegian krone is getting progressively stronger against the euro, hampering Norway's exporters that depend on the Eurozone. Since May 6, NORW is up modestly, though the ETF is down this week. On May 6, EUR/NOK traded around 7.65. As of this writing, the pair was below 7.5160.
Norway is a dark horse for a rate cut, but not a far-flung possibility, either.
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