Capital flows to Latin America: third quarter 2001
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Events in Argentina dominated most of the third quarter of 2001 until September 11, when the terrorist attacks against the United States prompted a sell-off of emerging markets assets, increasing uncertainty and risk aversion against a background of global economic slowdown. Emerging markets' short term prospects to tap international capital markets deteriorated significantly. In the third quarter of 2001, Latin American countries issued US$7.6 billion in bonds, following US$11.2 billion in the second quarter and US$13.2 billion in the first quarter, which had been a jump from only US$2.9 billion in the last quarter of 2000. At first, it seemed that the pace of debt issuance would slow down considerably given Argentina's troubles in July, as Argentina's bond auction at the beginning of the month was poorly received, forcing the government to shorten the maturity of the new debt and to pay rates as high as those during the Russian crisis in 1998. By August, however, emerging markets rebounded strongly on the back of a new US$8 billion IMF assistance package to Argentina, with both Mexico and Brazil successfully launching large issues. International markets displayed considerable flexibility as investors gave Mexico's US$1.5 billion 30- year bond and Brazil's JPY200 billion two-year samurai issue a warm reception. This return to capital markets was interrupted by the events of September 11, which caused debt issuance to fall sharply in September and October. Following the events of September 11, EMBI+ spreads widened above 1,000 basis points for the first time in nearly two years. According to J.P. Morgan there was a 3.7% market decline in September, which brought year-to-date returns for the EMBI+ to only 0.06%. Emerging markets debt, however, fared better than most other fixed income and equity markets in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. U.S. high-yield market suffered its worst month since August 1998, declining by 6.5%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq declined by 8.2% and 17%, respectively. Emerging equity markets suffered even greater declines, with losses as severe as 24% in local currency terms and 31% in U.S. dollar terms.