Futures Now

Will Fed crush emerging markets? The big debate

SocGen expert: Beware emerging markets
SocGen expert: Beware emerging markets

A debate is brewing on Wall Street about emerging markets. On one side are the bears, who say that the Federal Reserve's expected tapering of its quantitative easing program in 2014 will make next year a very difficult one for the emerging markets. On the other side are the bulls, who say that the Fed's effect on the emerging markets has been badly overblow.

"For 2014, we are very worried on emerging markets," Patrick Legland, Societe Generale's global head of research, told CNBC's "Futures Now" on Thursday. "They have benefited from low interest rates, negative real interest rates, but virtually, this is the end."

Yet emerging market bulls like Tim Seymour of Triogem Asset Management say emerging markets haven't been the gigantic beneficiary of QE that many may think.

"I don't think it's as easy to say that if the dollar strengthens and rates start to go up, you can be resolute in saying that emerging is going to sell off," Seymour said. "How much money has flowed into emerging market equities on the back of QE? Not a lot."

Similarly, Zachary Karabell of River Twice Research says that QE's economic impact on growing economies has been massively overstated.

"The emerging world is not emerging just in past two years of QE," Karabell told CNBC.com. "So while financial markets may get roiled by the momentary decision to begin to start tapering, the EM growth story did not emerge from Ben Bernanke's brow coming full-formed like Athena from the head of Zeus."

(Read more: You're wrong—QE has not boosted stocks: McKinsey)

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Yet bears like Legland continue to paint the picture in stark (and similarly mythic) terms.

"Fed policy is a sword of Damocles for emerging markets," he wrote in a recent note. With a taper expected in March, "the threat of rising global yields is a key downside risk for EM assets near-term."

Amid the bearish take of those like Legland, Seymour sees an opportunity.

"Things have already corrected a lot, and for now, in a short-sighted world, I would not be running out of emerging market equities at all right now," he said. "I'd be buying them here."

(Read more: Emerging markets get no love even as US bats up record highs)

Meanwhile, Karabell said he's "an investor in the global growth story," but added that no one truly knows what the end of the Fed's bond-buying program will mean for emerging markets.

"There's not a parallel moment in history, so no one knows what happened last time. You have to embrace the fact that none of us knows what will happen," Karabell said, adding: "Anyone who says they know is wrong."

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg. Follow him on Twitter: @CNBCAlex.

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