BRICs biggest currency depreciation since 1998 to worsen

Real, ruble, rupee and yuan falling fast

Yuan Debt

The rupee’s drop has hurt Indian companies by fueling inflation and reducing the scope for lower borrowing costs, said V. Ashok, the chief financial officer of Essar Group, the utility and shipping company owned by billionaire brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia. India’s central bank unexpectedly left interest rates unchanged on June 18.

“One has no clue where it is going to end,” Ashok said in a June 22 phone interview from Mumbai. “The uncertainty and the volatility is the biggest concern.”

A weaker yuan is sapping demand for local-currency debt sold in Hong Kong, where international investors speculate on China’s foreign exchange rate. The average yield rose to a four- month high of 5.35 percent on June 5 from 4.82 percent at the end of March, according to data compiled by Bank of America Corp. Wang Changshun, chairman of Air China Ltd., told reporters this month that the company’s income from foreign-currency transactions will drop about 80 percent.

Bearish Bets

“All the BRIC looked ugly,” John Taylor, who oversees $3.5 billion as founder of currency hedge fund FX Concepts LLC in New York, said in an phone interview on June 19. The real and ruble will suffer “fairly decent” declines later this year as a global recession spurs investors to buy dollars as a haven, Taylor said.

After spending most of last year introducing policies to weaken their currencies, emerging-market governments are now working to limit the slide amid capital outflows.

Brazil’s government pared a tax on overseas loans on June 14 and has used swaps to add dollars to the market. Russia’s central bank sold U.S. currency this month to slow the ruble’s retreat, according to Chairman Sergey Ignatiev. India cut the amount of overseas income companies can hold in foreign exchange last month, spurring them to repatriate earnings. The ownership ceiling on government bonds was raised by $5 billion to $20 billion, the central bank said in an e-mailed statement today.

Investors withdrew $6.3 billion from Brazil’s stocks and bonds in May, the most since at least 2010, central bank data show. Russian capital outflows reached a net $46.5 billion in the first five months of the year, including $5.8 billion in May, which is “a lot” for the country, Ignatiev told reporters in St. Petersburg on June 6.

Consumer Defaults

Derivatives traders see no sign of a turnaround.

Wagers on a weaker real on Sao Paulo-based BM&FBovespa’s futures exchange rose to $4.7 billion on June 12, the most since February 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Option traders are the most bearish on the ruble since October and they expect price swings in the rupee to be the biggest in Asia, the data show. Twelve-month forward contracts on the yuan are pricing in a further decline of 0.9 percent in a year.

A surge in bad loans in Brazil will weaken the real further, said Amit Rajpal, who manages global financial funds for London-based Marshall Wace LLP. The default rate on consumer debt rose to 7.6 percent in April, matching the highest level since December 2009, as lending growth slowed to 18 percent from a record 34 percent in September 2008, according to the central bank.

India Deficit

“What we’ll see now is basically a full-blown credit problem,” said Rajpal, who predicts rising defaults in Brazil will resemble the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market five years ago.

In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is grappling with trade and budget deficits, corruption scandals and fighting in the ruling coalition. The country may become the first among the BRIC nations to lose its investment-grade rating, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings said this month. India’s budget gap amounted to 5.8 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 4.2 percent in Portugal and 3.9 percent in Italy, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

China has cut its growth target this year to 7.5 percent, from the 8 percent goal that had been in place since 2005. Home values fell in a record 54 of 70 cities tracked by the government in May, while industrial production growth slowed to a three-year low in April.

In Russia, the price of Urals crude, the country’s main export blend, sank 26 percent this quarter. Russia relies on oil and gas for about 50 percent of its budget revenue.

Investors are still too bullish on assets in the BRIC nations as Europe’s debt crisis weighs on emerging economies, said Eric Fine, a money manager at Van Eck Global.

“They will do poorly when the world is doing poorly,” Fine, whose firm oversees about $35 billion, said in a phone interview from New York. “I don’t believe in decoupling.”

Bloomberg News

--With assistance from Shikhar Balwani and V. Ramakrishnan in Mumbai, Judy Chen in Shanghai, Jasmine Wang in Hong Kong, Blake Schmidt in Bogota, Lucia Kassai in Sao Paulo, Donal Griffin and Tom Keene in New York and Duane D. Stanford in Atlanta. Editors: Philip Revzin, Laura Zelenko

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