Emerging Markets

The Breakdown of the BRICs


The Breakdown of the BRICs

Photograph by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images

Is the decade-long BRIC dream over?

Bloomberg reports that capital flight from Brazil, Russia, India, and China has sent their bonds, currencies, and stocks down together for the first time since 2006.

Since 2003, when Goldman Sachs (GS) predicted this league of developing economies would join the ranks of the world’s biggest, the MSCI BRIC Index has returned about 227 percent; this year, however, it’s trailing the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index by the most since 1998. From 2005 through last year, investors piled $52 billion into BRIC mutual funds, according to research firm EPFR. This year investors have yanked $13.9 billion from the category.

Anything BRIC seems to be struggling. Last quarter the MSCI BRIC Index fell 12 percent; BRIC government bonds lost an average of 0.6 percent, and their currencies fell 4.1 percent against the dollar. That’s the first time emerging-market stocks, bonds, and currencies have dropped together, according to data compiled Bloomberg going back seven years. China is looking at its weakest annual expansion in more than two decades. India’s current-account deficit has pushed the rupee to an all-time low. Oil’s drop has slowed Russia’s economy for five straight quarters, and Brazil is dealing with poor growth, rising inflation, and street protests.

“Every decade there’s a theme that captures investors’ imagination—the 1970s was about gold, 1980s was all about Japan, and 1990s was about technology companies,” Ruchir Sharma, the head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley (MS) Investment Management, told Bloomberg News. “Last decade it was about the BRICs. That theme has basically run its course.”

“After years of strong growth, the BRICs are beginning to run into speed bumps,” International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard said at a Tuesday press conference.

The selloff could be overdone. The MSCI BRIC Index’s 17 percent drop this year has left it trading at 1.2 times net assets, a 36 percent discount to the MSCI All-Country World Index. This for a group of economies that represented 62 percent of global growth last year, compared with just 11 percent a decade ago.

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Farzad is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor. Follow him on Twitter @robenfarzad.

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