Outlook for 2015 better than last year, but emerging markets are a worry for Fitch

Catherine Neilan
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Nigeria is exposed by falling oil prices, says Fitch (Source: Getty)
Do you want the good news or the bad news?
Let's go with the good: According to ratings agency Fitch, the global outlook is far more balanced for 2015 than it was this time last year. At the back end of 2013, there were twice as many negative as positive outlooks for sovereign creditworthiness, but now it's more even.
But there is some bad news: Those negative outlooks are concentrated in the emerging markets, which is where many have been relying on growth for some time.
Fitch says its view on the global economy has weakened since September:
The uptick in growth will be driven by a buoyant US economy. The Eurozone will eke out improved but still weak growth in 2015. Japan will also grow slightly faster. Emerging markets growth will be little changed from 2014. Among the bigger economies, we expect China to slow, Russia to enter recession and Brazil to post a sluggish recovery.

Let's break that down by region. First up, Europe

Fitch says there should be mild improvement in credit quality within the Eurozone, but slow GDP growth and big deficits will make it hard to reduce public debt, which means there are still risks to those ratings. Unless there is an unexpected pick-up in growth and inflation early next year, Fitch expects a sovereign bond quantitative easing programme to be introduced.

Next, emerging markets

Some emerging markets could face downgrades because of falling commodities prices, particularly one culprit:
“In view of the steep fall in oil prices since mid-2014, lower-rated emerging-market oil exporters such as Venezuela, Nigeria and Bahrain are particularly exposed. More highly rated oil exporters have buffers and can afford countercyclical policy.
"Conversely, lower oil prices will benefit consumption in developed markets, hold down headline inflation, and ease external pressures in large energy importers such as Turkey and India. There are other exceptions in emerging markets, where reform has boosted growth or lowered vulnerability to crises.”

And in the US

The economy is recovering but with inflation still below target Fitch thinks rates are only likely to reach two per cent by the end of 2016.
"A quicker or steeper pace of tightening would affect those emerging markets that depend most heavily on portfolio capital to finance current account deficits and those where the government or private sector are prolific external borrowers."

China slowdown

China is entering a period of “structural adjustment after years of investment-fuelled growth”, which will affect its trading partners as well as its own growth.
“The resolution of the economy's debt problem will be crucial in determining the path for the ratings. A sufficiently large migration of debt onto the sovereign balance sheet from the broader economy could trigger a move,” the ratings agency says.

Russia and Ukraine

Here there are what Fitch describes as “idiosyncratic factors” afoot. I think we all know what that means.