In May 2013, officials of the Federal Reserve System first began to talk of the possibility of the U.S. central bank tapering its securities purchases (of it gradually reducing them from the prevailing $85 billion monthly rate to something lower, presumably as a prelude to phasing them out entirely). A milestone to which many observers point is May 22, 2013 when Chairman Bernanke raised the possibility of tapering in his testimony to the Congress. This “tapering talk” had a sharp negative impact on economic and financial conditions in emerging markets.
Three aspects of that impact are noteworthy. First, not only was the impact sharp but, in the view of many commentators, it was surprisingly large. The most alarmed (some would say alarmist) commentators raised the possibility that some emerging countries might be heading towards a full blown crisis like those in Mexico in 1994 and Asia in 1998. Second, the impact was not felt uniformly; different countries were affected rather differently. And, third, there were complaints from policy makers in the developing world about the Fed’s turn to tapering that were seemingly hard to square with earlier criticisms of quantitative easing by the U.S. central bank as a form of “currency war.”