Mark Mobius: Emerging Markets Cushioned from US Fiscal Cliff

Friday, 23 Nov 2012 11:56 AM

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Many emerging markets would be cushioned from fallout that would spread across the world should U.S. policymakers fail to steer the economy away from the fiscal cliff, said Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group.

The world is anxiously hoping the White House and Congress will prevent the United States from careening over the fast-approaching fiscal cliff, a combination of tax hikes and deep spending cuts due to kick in at the same time at the end of this year.

Failure to do so could send the U.S. economy falling into an otherwise preventable recession, which would send shockwaves around the world, though many countries are prepared to handle such an event.

Editor's Note: You Deserve to Know What Obama and Bernanke Are Hiding From Americans

“The good news for emerging markets investors? Dependence on exports to the U.S. has generally been declining in Asia and the emerging countries over the past decade,” Mobius wrote in a note.

“The absolute dollar figures for total exports have been rising, but emerging market countries have been diversifying their export base to include countries beyond the U.S. and Europe, the latter of which, as we know, has been suffering from a debt crisis of its own.”

China, Mobius points out, is the largest destination for exports from Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore and Indonesia.

Investors in emerging markets, however, shouldn’t get too complacent, as after all, the U.S. economy is the world’s largest.

“Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the U.S. is the world’s largest single economy, with a GDP [gross domestic product] of about US$16 trillion, followed by China at US$8 trillion and Japan at US$6 trillion,” he warned.

“China’s economy is so large that its exports to the U.S. represent only 5 percent of its GDP, but trade with the U.S. is obviously important, as China is the United States’ second-largest trading partner.”

China, meanwhile, imports a great deal of goods from the United States despite the Asian giant’s reputation has being an exporting powerhouse.

“The bottom line is that from an investment standpoint, there could be negative implications to Asian companies which export to the U.S. and Europe, but we believe some of the stronger ones will likely survive.”

In the meantime, the entire planet is urging U.S. lawmakers to put politics aside and steer the economy away from the fiscal cliff.

Sticking points largely include the Bush-era tax cuts, with Democrats calling for their expiration on wealthy Americans to drum up revenue, a proposal many Republicans oppose on the grounds that such a move would hit small business owners and prompt them to put off expanding and hiring.

Should both sides fail, expect the United States to see credit ratings downgraded, noted policymakers say.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States in 2011 when lawmakers waited until the last second to raise the country’s debt limit in a deal that did little to address longer-term debts and deficits.

This time around, other ratings agencies could follow suit.

“What’s worrisome is if we get over the cliff, we don’t have a deal — and the market doesn’t anticipate that we’re actually going to be so stupid as to go over the cliff — then I think you’ll see the market really crash,” Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, told CNBC.

“I think you’ll see the rating agencies downgrade our credit again. You’ll see Fitch and Moody’s join S&P.”

Editor's Note: You Deserve to Know What Obama and Bernanke Are Hiding From Americans

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