Emerging stocks fall after lack of clarity on China US trade negotiations
Emerging markets stocks and currencies were subdued on Thursday, awaiting cues from Sino-U.S. trade negotiations as they move to higher level talks, while possible sanctions on Russia hurt shares and the rouble.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are to lead continuing trade negotiations in Beijing on Thursday as both sides strive to work out a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline. Bloomberg reported that U.S. President Donald Trump was considering putting off the deadline by 60 days, citing people familiar with the matter. Trump had said on Wednesday that the talks were "going along very well".
"Most likely, the rise in tariffs will be delayed but one doesn't know for sure as we have seen talks fall apart in the past. But, yes this time Donald Trump seems to be getting involved personally so it seems something better may happen," said William Jackson, chief emerging market economist at Capital Economics in London. But investors held off on making bets on emerging stocks, and the MSCI index was down 0.3 per cent. Capital Economics' Jackson said stocks were subdued as nothing significant had happened yet.
In Asia, Chinese shares ended mixed as strong export data was overshadowed by doubts about sustainability as trade talks progressed. South Korea stocks , however, surged on the Chinese trade data. Russian stocks hit a near one-month low as U.S. Republican and Democratic senators pressed for tough new sanctions on Russia's debt, banks and energy sector for meddling in U.S. elections and for its involvement in Ukraine.
The rouble extended losses after weakening more than 1 per cent last session on the news. "The sanctions are driving the currency lower. Also the rouble was among the best-performing currencies in January and concerns about the sanctions are prompting investors to take positions out," said Petr Krpata, chief EMEA FX and interest strategist at ING in London.
Among other currencies, the Turkish lira turned lower after data showed that industrial production plunged a greater-than-expected 9.8 per cent year-on-year in December - its fourth consecutive month of decline. "The numbers are weaker than expected and they point to a much (more) severe contraction in GDP in the fourth quarter of last year. I think this is making people realize how big the impact of the lira crisis last August had on the economy," Jackson said.
The South African rand touched its lowest point in six weeks, down half a per cent, extending losses as concerns over state power firm Eskom's financial stress lingered. Most Asian currencies also ticked lower, taking the MSCI emerging market currency index down 0.4 per cent to a three-week low.
In Eastern Europe, a slew of economic growth data that came in better than anticipated failed to boost currencies such as the Polish zloty, Hungarian forint and Romanian's leu For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2018, see http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2018, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX
(With inputs from agencies.)
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