The plunge in emerging markets is taking a bite out of the performance of funds managed by some of the biggest names on Wall Street, including BlackRock, Brevan Howard and T. Rowe Price.
Some mutual funds are already down 10 percent so far this year, thanks to declining stocks and currencies. And that drop has intensified selling pressure as investors rush to pull more money out.
"It has been a disappointing beginning of the year," said Will Landers, a BlackRock equity portfolio manager with close to $4 billion in assets under management. The BlackRock Latin America Fund is off 10 percent this year.
Generally, hedge funds appear to be weathering the sell-off better. Many managers reduced their exposure to emerging markets late last year because of shaky economic prospects, and the current volatility creates more opportunities for those who use short strategies.
Emerging markets had been the darlings of the financial world between 2009 and early 2013, driven by a belief that countries such as China and Brazil would lead global growth in the next few years, while developed world economies would remain nearly stagnant.
But emerging markets investors have turned nervous for many reasons, from the U.S. Federal Reserve's pullback in its bond buying program to upcoming elections in India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and elsewhere. The street battles between protesters and the authorities in Ukraine, turmoil over elections in Thailand, and bomb blasts in Egypt are not helping either.
So jittery are investors that a shock 425-basis-point hike in interest rates by Turkey's central bank last week did not even buy the currency a 24-hour reprieve before selling started again.
Illustrative of this is the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets fund, which is down 9.7 percent in 2014 through Wednesday. The ETF - the second-most actively traded in the United States - ended last year down 5.8 percent and rose 17 percent in 2012.
Fund investors worldwide pulled $6.4 billion from emerging market stock funds in the week ended Jan. 29, their biggest outflows since August 2011, according to data from a Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report.
And investors and analysts say that the debt markets can be just as treacherous.
"I'd advise only those investors with much higher risk tolerances to invest in emerging market debt as they become much more volatile," David Sekera, corporate bond strategist with Morningstar, said on a webcast.
BRAZIL, BANE OR BENEFIT?
Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, has dragged down many funds this