What Has Changed in EM

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  • Thailand announced general elections will be held in November 2018
  • Czech police filed criminal charges against ANO leader Andrej Babis
  • South Africa President Zuma may face corruption charges that were previously dropped
  • The US suspended visa services for travelers from Turkey
  • Kenyan opposition candidate Odinga withdrew from a redo of the annulled presidential election
  • Saudi Arabia will take a more gradual approach to removing fuel subsidies
  • Former Mexican First Lady Zavala said she’s leaving PAN to run as an independent

In the EM equity space as measured by MSCI, Hungary (+2.8%), Qatar (+2.6%), and Taiwan (+2.5%) have outperformed this week, while Mexico (-1.3%), Egypt (-0.8%), and Colombia (-0.5%) have underperformed.  To put this in better context, MSCI EM rose 2.2% this week while MSCI DM rose 0.8%.

In the EM local currency bond space, Hungary (10-year yield -20 bp), Poland (-18 bp), and South Africa (-15 bp) have outperformed this week, while Mexico (10-year yield +6 bp), China (+3 bp), and Philippines (+2 bp) have underperformed.  To put this in better context, the 10-year UST yield fell 6 bp to 2.30%.

In the EM FX space, ZAR (+3.2% vs. USD), CLP (+1.8% vs. USD), and RUB (+1.7% vs. USD) have outperformed this week, while MXN (-1.6% vs. USD), TRY (-0.6% vs. USD), and PHP (-0.5% vs. USD) have underperformed.

Thailand announced general elections will be held in November 2018.  An exact date will be chosen around mid-2018, according to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.  Note that elections have been delayed several times before, and so this 2018 data is not set in stone.  The country has been ruled by the military since the coup in 2014.

Czech police filed criminal charges against ANO leader Andrej Babis.  The fraud charges are related to EU subsidies, and come ahead of next week’s general elections.  Police also charged ANO Deputy Chairman Faltynek in the same case. Both Faltynek and Babis have denied any wrongdoing, and claim that the charges are politically motivated.

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that President Zuma can again face corruption charges that were previously dropped.  The court called a decision by prosecutors to drop those charges in 2009 “irrational.”  No word yet on whether Zuma will indeed be charged again.  However, our base case is that Zuma hangs on to power until his term ends in 2018, as he has faced down so many legal challenges before.

The US suspended visa services for travelers from Turkey.  This came after an employee at the US Consulate in Istanbul was arrested.  Turkey responded with a similar move on visas for US travelers.  This sort of spat between NATO allies is highly unusual but caps off months of escalating tensions.  The visa ban puts Turkey in the same group as Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen, which have all had travel restrictions imposed this year by the US.

Kenyan opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga withdrew from a redo of the annulled presidential election.  Odinga said he withdrew because the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission would not discuss proposed changes that would ensure a free and fair vote.  The announcement came just as President Kenyatta’s Jubilee party proposed amendments to the electoral law that would allow a winner to be declared if one of the candidates withdraws.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that Saudi Arabia will take a more gradual approach to removing fuel subsidies.  The announcement came after the IMF recommended a slower approach to austerity.  He noted that some domestic energy prices will rise to international levels a bit slower than expected.  He also added that as a result of slower subsidy cuts, it will take longer to balance the budget.

Former Mexican First Lady Zavala said she’s leaving PAN to run as an independent for president next year.  We think this is negative as it will further splinter the center-right and give leftist AMLO a better chance of winning.  There have been reports of a leadership battle in the PAN between Zavala and party leader Ricardo Anayo.  Her departure likely means that Anayo had won or was going to win the nomination.