Emerging markets could be headed for more declines this year — adding to already steep losses for 2018 — as trade tensions between the world’s largest economies increase and interest rates rise.
The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets exchange-traded fund (EEM), which tracks emerging-market stocks, fell 8 percent in the first six months of the year and is still down more than 7 percent. Among the biggest decliners in emerging markets were Argentine, Turkish, Brazilian and Chinese shares.
The sharp declines came as relations between the U.S. and some of its biggest trade partners soured and as central banks around the world started raising rates from a period of historic lows, setting up emerging markets for another wave of pain.
“This really resulted from the escalation in trade tensions on multiple fronts,” said Jon Harrison, director of macro strategy at TS Lombard. “This is also taking place against a backdrop of tighter monetary policy as central banks raise rates.”
“A lot of emerging markets have seen export growth in the past year, which helps their economies,” Harrison said. “But that is dependent on increases in global trade. If you see lower world trade, the big EM exporters will be hurt.”
The U.S. unveiled on Tuesday a list of $200 billion in Chinese goods it is targeting for tariffs. The announcement came after the U.S. slapped tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods last week. The U.S. has also implemented tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico, Canada and the European Union. They have retaliated against those levies with tariffs of their own.
Emerging-market equities fell nearly 2 percent on Wednesday after the U.S. released the list of possible new China goods tariffs.