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In order to draw the necessary capital to pull emerging markets out of their swoon, real interest rates have to go higher, says Citigroup. A near-doubling of the benchmark rate in Turkey last week only pulled one-year borrowing costs up to 3.6%, less than half the average in the thee years prior to 2008. The real yield in Mexico (EWW) is about zero. In South Africa, it's 1.4% vs. 2% over the past decade.
“When you have low real rates and try to finance your current-account deficits, it usually won’t work,” says Citi LatAm strategist Dirk Willer. “If the U.S. is repricing for higher rates, it’s very difficult for you to get away with lower rates. South Africa (EZA) and Turkey (TUR) are not safe yet.”
“International monetary cooperation has broken down,” says India central bank boss Raghuram Rajan, a day after the Fed boosted the size of its taper and made no mention of melting-down emerging markets. Rajan joined counterparts from Turkey and South Africa this week in boosting rates to try and stem the slide in their domestic currencies.
"The challenge is brought on by their own domestic policies," says former Fed Governor Randy Krosner. "It's unfair to say it's all the Fed's fault."
Back in his IMF days in 2011, Rajan authored a report calling for the formation of a committee composed of representatives from the major central banks who would report on the spillover consequences of their individual policies. Good luck with that one.
Emerging markets are getting a respite today amid a big rally in the West (of the West is rallying because of a respite in emerging markets).
Who could have thought raising interest rates 425 basis points would be bearish? A curious rally following Turkey's defense of the lira - it jacked rates to 12% from 7.75% - has completely reversed. One feels a 1992-like vibe where the Bank of England hiked like crazy to defend the pound, but then ultimately had to let it go (also creating a bottom in stocks).
In Europe, the Stoxx 50 (FEZ) is off 1.3%, with Turkey (TUR) now down 2.3%.
South Africa joins the party, unexpectedly hiking its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 5.5%. EZA -2.8%.
A check of Brazil (EWZ -1.3%) and India (EPI -1.1%) - where monetary policy has also been tightened this week - finds them lower as well.
The money is flowing into U.S. Treasurys which continue a big 2014 rally. The 10-year yield is off five basis points to 2.71%. TLT +0.3%, TBT -0.5%.
The consensus was that the bank wouldn't increase rates, but the weakness of the rand has prompted it to act.
The bank's move follows similar action of varying degrees from peers in other emerging markets, most notably Turkey yesterday, India and Brazil.
"The bunch of rate hikes from other emerging-market economies has put pressure on (Governor Gill) Marcus to hike rates because there's a fear she's going to be left behind if she doesn't move and foreign money will then invest in other emerging market economies," says trader Sijadu Mzozoyana. (PR)
However, the bank's move seems to be having no effect on the rand, with the USD-ZAR +2.5 to 11.2988 rand. The FTSE/JSE Top 40 is +0.4%.
The iShares Emerging Markets Index ETF (EEM) is off 1.3% in the premarket as investors rush out of emerging currencies. The Turkish lira plunged to a record low today, while Ukraine's hryvnia fell to a four-year low, and South Africa's Rand dove to its weakest since October 2008 following Argentina's decision to devalue the peso and a weak PMI report out of China yesterday.
“We continue to see the risks surrounding China’s macro trajectory as having a negative impact on EM,” says Morgan Stanley's Rashique Rahman. “As capital costs rise and investment slows, commodity prices should come under pressure, boding poorly for economies linked to China’s old growth model.”
Of Turkey from Rareview Macro's Neil Azous: "Their net foreign-exchange reserves are dwindling pretty fast. They’re definitely in the danger zone. If you’re a money manager, the responsible action is to take some measures to reduce risk.”
South African markets are calm following the passing of Nelson Mandela, who was instrumental in the country's peaceful transition away from apartheid.
One of Mandela's biggest achievements was enacting policies that paved the way for GDP to grow for 15 years, the longest period of expansion in South Africa's history. These policies included embracing the free market, cutting costs and attracting foreign investment.
The question is now that Mandela has passed on, whether South Africa will feel more free to abandon the policies and conciliation that he espoused. For example, the ANC's youth wing wants to nationalize banks and mines, policies that Mandela ditched in 1994.
There are also fears that Mandela's death could leave South Africa open to renewed racial and social tensions, such as those seen in the mine strikes over the past year or so.
The economy is already not in a good way: unemployment is 24.7% and there is a large inequality in earnings between blacks and whites.
The FTSE/JSE Top 40 is +0.3%, the South African 10-year bond yield is -2.5 bps at 8.16%, and the USD-ZAR is +0.2% at 10.4732 rand.
43 out of 45 global markets are oversold, according to BAML's "Breadth Buy" indicator. These extreme signals tend to be followed by a short-term 6-7% bounce, but, cautions chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett, a sustained rally would require a shift in policy behavior. What's more, the 2 markets not in oversold territory are the U.S. (SPY) and Japan (EWJ, DXJ) and they're kind of important. Most oversold: Brazil (EWZ), Turkey (TUR), South Africa (EZA), Mexico (EWW), Materials (XLB), China (FXI, CAF). Least oversold (in addition to the U.S. and Japan): Health Care (XLV, IYH), and Consumer Discretionary (XLY).
The rout in emerging markets has continued today, with the South African rand (EZA) sliding 1.6% to 10.35 to the dollar, the yield on 10-year government bonds jumping 27.5 bps to 8.17%, and the JSE Top 40 sinking 1.8%. Meanwhile, Thai shares lost 4.5%, Indonesia 3.9% and the Philippines 4.6%. (See rupee hits record lows)
Glencore Xstrata (GLCNF.PK) fires 1,000 workers across three of its chrome mines in South Africa for going on illegal strike last week, bringing those operations to a halt. The dispute adds to long-running friction in the mining industry that has raised concerns about Africa's largest economy and sent the rand to four-year lows. The country is home to ~75% of the world's chromite reserves.
Emerging-market currencies are taking a battering, with the South African rand (EZA) receiving particular punishment. What began as a "drip drip of currency weakness" (WSJ) on concerns about the end of the Fed's QE program has turned into a flood as countries' various problems become exposed. The rand is down 6.3% since last week and the Turkish lira is -2.4%.
Gold's sharp rise today can be attributed to the dollar's drop vs. the yen; when the dollar drops, gold should rise, as their correlation during the past 24 days has hit -86%. A stock sector that's standing out is emerging market gold miners: South Africa’s Sibanye (SBGL), Harmony (HMY) and AngloGold (AU), plus Peru's Buenaventura (BVN) are stronger, even as their corresponding country ETFs (EZA; EPU) are in the red.
South Africa's rand falls to its lowest level in four years as clashes between mine owners and workers erupt again today. Government "heavy-handedness" with mining companies has created a "major negative" for investors both inside and outside mining, as it reduces companies’ abilities to set their balance sheets and control their own destinies, Greenbriar Partners says. AU -3.3%, GFI -3%, HMY -2.6%.
Shares of South African miners sink as the country's mine workers union calls for a 60% pay increase on gold and coal producers. The union says it is seeking an entry-level minimum monthly wage of 7K rand ($750) for surface workers and 8K rand for underground workers vs. respective current minimum wages of 4.7K and 5K rand. AU -3.7%, GFI -3.4%, HMY -1.9% premarket.
The head of a major South African mining union threatens to bring the country's economy "to a standstill" and demands a meeting with President Zuma, ramping up the rhetoric in a long and heated conflict between labor and the government. But a strike seems averted for at least another day, as top platinum producer Amplats (AGPPY.PK) says employees reported for today's shifts as normal.
The recent selloff in commodities (DBC) is not a correction, says Stan Druckenmiller, now on stage at Ira Sohn, but instead the end of the supercycle. Avoid commodity markets - Brazil (EWZ, BRF, BRL), South Africa (EZA, SZR), Canada (EWC, FXC). "Frankly, I'd short the aussie (FXA)." His largest equity holding? "I can't imagine a better position than Google (GOOG)" - selling for 16x earnings and no exposure to China.
More details on iShares' ETF fee hikes: Going to 0.61% from 0.59% (a 3.4% hike) are its Chile Investable Market Fund (ECH), China Small Cap Fund (ECNS), Indonesia Investable Market Fund (EIDO), Israel Capped Investable Market Fund (EIS), Philippines Investable Market Fund (EPHE) , Poland Investable Market Fund (EPOL), All Peru Capped Fund (EPU), Taiwan Fund (EWT), South Korea Fund (EWY), Brazil Fund (EWZ), Brazil Small Cap Fund (EWZS), South Africa Fund (EZA), Thailand Investable Market Fund (THD) and Turkey Investable Market Fund (TUR).