Tim Seymour: Emerging markets funds lost $1.64 billion from their investor accounts last week, but the question for traders is now whether this is just a trickle over the wall or a more serious break in the dike.
Last week’s redemptions pulled 0.23% of the assets out of all emerging markets ETFs and mutual funds from giant iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (NYSE:EEM) on down, leaving the asset class coping with a net $7.5 billion in outflows since the start of the year.
This was the first week of negative flows since late March. Analysts attribute the reversal to a broader reassessment of commodity stories and global growth prospects, so in that respect this may not be an isolated one-week event.
In fact, if we drill beneath the headlines, most of the redemptions came from institutions swapping their ETF allocations. This is generally the first sign that the wind is blowing in a different direction — and as the flows cycle out into the slower-moving mutual funds, the trend could continue.
I personally think this will be an 8-week cycle of redemptions, which would take us into mid-July before the big money swings back into emerging markets.
In the meantime, emerging markets still offer a superior credit story and on the whole a superior growth footprint over the long term. These are still strategic opportunities.
But look at some of the specific regions that were the world’s darlings just a few months ago. Russia-focused funds like Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSE:RSX) lost $353 million — the biggest move out since June 2006.
(That was a tough month to be trading. I was in Moscow at the time and we saw an overall drawdown of 31% of all fund assets out of the country in just five weeks.)
All in all, $30 billion of domestic capital has fled Russia so far this year. This is not counting foreign investors who moved in starting last summer and then really started flocking to the Moscow market right after Christmas, but are now nervous despite a mid-week bounce.
EMEA funds — tracking emerging Europe, the Middle East and Africa — are also suffering from a combination of factors.
You can point to gold prices hurting sentiment for iShares MSCI South Africa Index (NYSE:EZA) and other South African funds or the ongoing slow-motion crisis in the euro zone hurting SPDR S&P Emerging Europe ETF (NYSE:GUR) and other funds exposed to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, but either way, flows to this region are at their worst since the peak of the credit crunch back in October 2008.
Asia is also feeling the pressure. China funds like iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSE:FXI) saw their biggest negative flows since February — and even markets that looked unstoppable like the Market Vectors Vietnam ETF (NYSE:VNM) gave back money last week.
Scattered winners include Thailand (NYSE:THD), Taiwan (NYSE:EWT), and a lot of Latin markets, from Brazil (NYSE:EWZ), to Peru (NYSE:EPU), and Colombia (NYSE:GXG).
Emerging Money provides insightful and timely information about the increasingly important world of Emerging Market investments. CNBC Emerging Markets Contributor Tim Seymour leads the team of Emerging Money to bring you cutting edge global news and analysis.
About Tim Seymour: Tim is a founder of Emerging Money. He is a founder and Managing Partner at Seygem Asset Management, and The Emerging Markets Contributor to CNBC. Seygem Asset Management focuses on investing throughout the global emerging markets asset class. With a view that emerging and developing economies will continue to outpace the economic growth and advancement of developed economies, Seymour has devoted a career to investing in the dominant markets of tomorrow, today. Seymour’s career has included significant experience in both alternative asset management (hedge funds) and capital markets, having launched two hedge funds, and built the largest Russian broker dealer in the USA. Seymour started his career at UBS, focusing on international credit (cash, swaps, forex) in a specialized hedge fund group (New York). Seymour completed the firm’s training program after graduating with an MBA in international finance from Fordham University. Seymour received his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University.