Foreigners are cutting and running in some key Asian emerging markets amid turbulent trading ahead of this week’s Federal Reserve meeting, where policymakers are expected to signal an interest-rate liftoff in March.
Overseas funds have sold a net $3.1 billion worth of shares in Taiwan, South Korea and India so far this week, according to the latest available data compiled by Bloomberg. That follows $4.9 billion of withdrawals last week, the largest since August.
“Coupled with the rise in geopolitical risks (Russia – Ukraine) that may keep energy costs high in the near term, risks are fairly high for now and it’s not surprising to see money being taken off the table,” said Lorraine Tan, director of Asia equity research at Morningstar.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index has lost more than 5% in two weeks, as rising bets on faster-than-expected monetary tightening and heightened tensions over Ukraine roiled global stock markets. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Korea have suffered with their large tech exposure, with the sector bearing the brunt of the selloff as bond yields rose.
“Foreign investors seem to have started reducing risky assets as they gauge the Fed’s monetary tightening,” said Hyun Choi, head of equity at Baring Asset Management Korea Ltd. “Investors need time to get adjusted to the new environment of change in liquidity.”
Some Southeast Asian markets that have relatively low exposure to tech names have bucked the trend of outflows. Foreigners have been net buyers in small amounts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam so far this week.
In India, where the benchmark stock gauge slumped the most in two months on Monday, consumer technology names were among the biggest losers.
“The high intensity of selling in the market appears like forced liquidation by large foreign investors,” Abhay Agarwal, fund manager at Mumbai-based Piper Serica Advisors Pvt., said on the day. –Bloomberg