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Why you don’t need to cry over Argentina

Leo La Valle | AFP | Getty Images

Although Argentina's latest crisis has revived harsh memories of its huge debt default more than a decade ago and spurred fears of contagion, the country's spilled milk isn't likely to flow over to other emerging markets, analysts said.

"This is not a general case of an 'innocent bystander' economy getting hurt by the same strong dollar that everyone else is also confronting," Nomura said in a report. "It is more a specific case of an extremely badly managed economy losing the faith of not merely foreign investors but with domestics also now justifiably trying to take flight."

Emerging markets in general have been hit by concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to begin tapering its asset purchases will spur further fund outflows from the region, but Argentina's turmoil has sharpened fears of a contagion effect.

(Read more: Investing in Argentina? Get ready to cry)

Argentina surprised the market last week by suddenly relaxing its currency controls, which have been blamed, at least in part, for spurring high inflation and a sharp drop in its currency by setting off a black market demand for dollars.

Consumer prices rose about 25 percent in 2013, according to private analyst estimates, Reuters reported, compared with official data suggesting around half that rate.

Argentina's peso has lost around 30 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of December, hovering around 8 pesos to the dollar. On the black market, the peso was trading at around 12.15 pesos to the dollar, according to Reuters.

Argentina's history has contributed to concerns its woes might spread. In late 2001, the country said it would default on around $100 billion of debt, what may be the biggest sovereign default in history.

The lenders in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America suffered around $84 billion in direct losses on the debt, according to a 2005 paper by Robert J. Shapiro, a former U.S. under-secretary of commerce for economic affairs, and Nam D. Pham, the founder of NDP Group.

(Read more: Are emerging markets on the brink of another crisis?)

Around 44 percent of the debt was believed to be held by retail investors, with some of it sold to European retirees as a safe source of yield. Court battles between the country and holdout investors who have refused to accept harsh haircuts on their principal remain unresolved and Argentina, once among the world's richest nations, still has elevated poverty levels.

But Argentina's latest woes are unlikely to have as big an impact on markets. For one, Argentina remains cut off from international debt markets. While its debt accounted for around 20 percent of the value of emerging market government bond issues in the J.P. Morgan Emerging Market Bond Index Plus before the default, it is now only around 2 percent.

(Read more: Will the Fed throw emerging markets a bone?)

"Not every national problem that crops up needs to be extrapolated to a global existential contagion issue," Nomura said. "Most of the emerging-market world (certainly in Asia) doesn't suffer such abjectly high inflation as Argentina, doesn't have Argentina's recent record of external defaults and foreign asset expropriation, or have domestics giving up on local currencies."

Other analysts agree. "A reality check for the Argentinean and Asian economies shows that Asia is fundamentally stronger and is well-positioned to deal with market volatility," CIMB said in a note, citing stable and well-regulated financial sectors. "Overall, the economic growth momentum in Asia remains intact, although it is expected to remain below the recent peak."

(Read more: Argentine peso suffers steepest daily fall since 2002)

In the wake of the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis and 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis, Asia's central banks strengthened their management of capital flows and mitigated the risks their exchange rates would become overvalued, containing the risks of over-leveraging and bubbles, CIMB said.

To be sure, some do have contagion concerns latest crisis, advising investors keep their distance from Argentina.

"We cannot recall any more incoherent response to an emerging market crisis," James Barrineau, co-head of emerging market debt at Schroders, said in a blog posting. He expects Brazil, Uruguay and Chile may all face a hit. "We have shed our exposure in those countries in most strategies."

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1

Contact World Economy

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