World Economy

S&P warns: There's a worrying trend in emerging markets; Turkey and South Africa are prime examples

Key Points
  • Emerging markets such as Turkey and South Africa have not used global liquidity to sufficiently take care of debt and leverage issues, S&P Global Ratings said
  • As the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank embark on monetary tightening, that could exacerbate the balance sheets of these EMs, S&P added
Emerging markets to see more sovereign downgrades than upgrades next year: S&P

Many emerging market economies, particularly Turkey and South Africa, haven't taken full advantage of global liquidity to clean up their sovereign balance sheets, S&P Global Ratings warned on Friday.

"Several governments have been using this easy funding time to actually take their eyes off the ball a little bit on macroeconomic stability issues and focusing more on policies that have a more immediate political payoff domestically," said the rating agency's sovereign global chief ratings officer Moritz Kraemer, referring to the loose monetary policies of global central banks.

That domestic political risk is present in several developing countries, which have not taken the opportunity to pay down leverage and debt, Kraemer told CNBC on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington D.C.

Turkey and South Africa are two key examples of that trend, he said.

"That's partly explained by the fact that conditions are so benign globally now that you get away with it," Kraemer said. "There's quite a bit of runway left for countries to continue accumulating debt while rates are so low, and that's a concern for us."

Table Mountain, Cape Town
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However, Portugal is one bright spot, Kraemer said, nothing that Lisbon "has used these times to make the adjustment required to make their position more sustainable." As a result, S&P raised Portugal's credit rating back to investment grade after five and a half years.

Emerging markets are expected to face more pressure as the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank gradually turn off the taps of easy money. The U.S. central bank has signaled its commitment to monetary tightening while the ECB began discussions on tapering last month.

"The wall of liquidity that's been going to emerging markets may be somewhat less benevolent to them ... time will tell who's actually exposed to that," said Kraemer.