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Rate-Hike Bets Are Accelerating Across Asia’s Emerging Markets

A cyclist rides along a deserted street near the Petronas Twin Towers is near-empty during a Movement Control Order (MCO) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. Malaysia has eased virus restrictions for those who have completed the full vaccination regime, allowing them to cross state borders and dine at restaurants as authorities seek to re-open the economy. Photographer: Samsul Said/Bloomberg

Traders have had a mixed view for most of this year about when emerging-Asia central banks will begin to normalize policy. Suddenly though, they are rushing to price in rate-hike bets across the region.   

The hawkish shift is most evident in South Korea and India, where markets are now anticipating at least a quarter-point increase in the next three months, while they are also building in Malaysia and Thailand over a two-year horizon.

Expectations for tighter monetary policy are being driven higher around the world as surging energy costs and Covid-driven supply-chain disruptions are causing inflation to accelerate. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the U.S., where Fed fund futures are now pricing in about 25 basis points of tightening by July, versus expectations early last month for a first move only in February 2023.

Hawkish bets are increasing in emerging Asia following the Fed, said Philip McNicholas, Asean foreign-exchange and rates strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence in Singapore. “This is made easier for many by the jumps in energy prices, which are beginning to lead markets to think central banks will tighten, creating impediments to recovery and supporting overall yield curve flattening.”

Here is at look at rate bets in the four emerging Asian markets mentioned above:

Won swaps are pricing more than 125bps of hikes over next 12 months

Korean swaps are factoring in around 125 basis points of rate increases over the next 12 months, up from just 69 basis points at the start of October. Bank of Korea has already raised its official bank rate once this year — in August — and Governor Lee Ju-yeol gave his strongest signal yet that another move is likely in November. Inflation has been above target for seven straight months.

The progress toward tightening is hurting Korean bonds, with a Bloomberg index of the nation’s sovereign debt having slumped 12% this year.

Hawkish bets for RBI have risen in tandem with rallying oil prices

In India, overnight index swaps are factoring in a hike of about 50 basis points over the next six months, compared with expectations in October for an increase of just 38 basis points in the same period. Surging crude prices have added to concern about quickening inflation in the oil-importing nation. The Reserve Bank of India’s unexpected announcement last month that it would halt debt purchases has also been seen as a precursor to policy normalization. The nation’s bonds handed investors a loss of 1.2% in October, a second monthly decline.

Malaysia: Steeper Premiums

Swap markets in Malaysia are pricing in about 40 basis points of hikes in the next 12-to-24 months, up from 23 basis points at the start of October. While domestic inflation has been relatively muted so far, economists expect price pressures to intensify as the economy reopens and the impact of higher oil prices becomes apparent. While the central bank has stayed dovish, its rate decision due Wednesday is in focus after the government outlined a record spending plan for next year.

Thailand: Swaps Rise

Thai swaps indicate almost 40 basis points of rate hikes are expected in the next 12-to-24 months, up from around 15 basis points at the start of October. The annual inflation rate climbed to 1.68% in September from minus 0.02% the previous month, driven by the spike in energy costs. Further price pressures may come from the release of pent-up demand following the recent easing of strict mobility curbs.


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