Emerging Asia

Indonesia

Interest rates and inflation to remain low

Growth in China will weaken further over the coming year as a downturn deepens in industry and construction. The outlook for the rest of the region is improving. We expect many economies to rebound strongly as governments ease restrictions on the back of faster vaccine rollouts and success reining in COVID outbreaks. Central banks – unlike in much of the emerging world – are in little rush to tighten. Inflation hasn’t emerged as a concern and, with large output gaps set to keep a lid on price pressures, we expect policy rates in most countries to remain on hold over the coming year. In contrast, the consensus and financial markets are expecting central banks to begin tightening in 2022.

20 October 2021

Bank Indonesia will be in no rush to tighten next year

Bank Indonesia today left its policy rate unchanged at 3.5% and signalled that it is likely to leave rates on hold for a prolonged period of time. With the economy rebounding but inflation set to stay low, we think interest rates will be left on hold until the end of next year.

19 October 2021

Lower valuations may not help EM equities outperform

We don’t think the low valuations of emerging market (EM) equity indices relative to those of developed markets (DMs) is reason to expect EM equities to outperform over the next couple of years.

18 October 2021
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EM supply constraints mount

Although the emerging market manufacturing PMI ticked up last month, EM industry has been undergoing a slowdown for some time. And the surveys show that supply constraints are mounting, which is likely to weigh on manufacturers’ output in the months ahead.

Manufacturing PMIs (Sep.)

While regional PMIs showed that the disruption from large virus waves in the region is easing somewhat, unmet orders continue to pile up, meaning that the resulting shortages further down supply chains are set to remain for some time to come.

Asian central banks in little rush to raise rates

Over the past month or so, the central banks of Korea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have all raised interest rates, but we don’t think other countries will be in any rush to follow suit. There is certainly little to worry about on the inflation front. Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka are the only three countries where headline inflation is above 5% y/y. With GDP still well below potential in most parts of the region, underlying price pressures will remain subdued. Similarly, with the exception of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, where large current account deficits are putting downward pressure on currencies, external factors are unlikely to prompt central banks into hiking rates. Although the US Fed is likely to announce plans to taper its asset purchases later this year, large current account surpluses mean Asian economies are well placed to withstand any sudden shift in capital flows that tighter monetary policy in the US could trigger. Meanwhile, unlike in Korea, there is no sign elsewhere in Asia that low interest rates are fuelling a rise in financial risks. Credit growth has slowed in many countries, with policymakers in Indonesia and the Philippines encouraging commercial banks to lend more. Finally, most countries still have large output gaps, and with the virus continuing to cause significant economic disruption across the region, central banks will remain keen to support economic activity.

Have emerging markets vanquished inflation?

Low inflation is here to stay in much of the emerging world. However, there is a significant risk that inflation rises, albeit moderately, over the medium term in several countries. This risk isn’t limited to the usual suspects like Turkey and Argentina. But it also includes other major emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, Colombia and, to a lesser extent, Mexico and India.

External strains unlikely to ease as tourism slump drags on

Countries across Emerging Asia are making renewed efforts to reopen their borders to boost flagging tourism sectors. However, ongoing travel restrictions and the spread of the more infectious Delta variant mean that tourism will continue to struggle. This will hold back recoveries in places such as Thailand and Malaysia and lead to further balance of payments strains in Sri Lanka.

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