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US earnings brighten mood for emerging stocks, FX subdued

By Reuters - Oct 17,2018 - Last updated at Oct 17,2018

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday in New York City. After ending lower the previous trading sessions, the Dow Jones industrial average rallied 2.17 per cent, or nearly 550 points (AFP photo)

BENGALURU — Emerging market stocks hit one-week highs on Wednesday as a strong start to the US corporate earnings season encouraged investors globally to take on more risk after a sell-off last week. 

A grind higher for the dollar kept the MSCI index of major emerging currencies under pressure with South Africa's rand near a two-week low and the rouble and Turkish lira struggling to hold on to early gains.

But stock markets in Korea, China and Turkey — all hit by this year's sell-off of riskier emerging market assets — gained ground after the worst two weeks since February for the sector as a whole. 

"Risk has come back into markets, and the bulls have wrestled back control," said Chris Weston, head of research with Australian foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone. "We can see the relief playing through in Asia. China found good buyers."

Emerging market currencies have also sunk this year, led by Turkey's lira, as rising US interest rates pulled capital back into the dollar and worries about global growth and trade unnerved investors in the developing world. 

The US Federal Reserve issues its September meeting minutes later on Wednesday and a bullish outlook from the US central bank on the economy that ignores signs of tension on financial markets is likely to impinge further on emerging markets. 

China's yuan edged lower in offshore trade in spite of the people's bank setting a stronger midpoint at the daily fixing. 

Koon Chow, a strategist at UBP, argued that any further weakness in emerging bond markets was likely to focus on higher-rated bonds with yields closer to US treasuries. 

"EM currencies are cheap, there is a lot of bad news baked in. Those will be insensitive [to the minutes]," he said. 

"The high rated stuff which have super low yields like central Europe, bits of Asia, where yields are maybe 1.5 per cent or 1 per cent above US treasuries, will be sensitive."

A survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch showed a record number of investors said emerging market currencies are undervalued — the cheapest valuation since the survey began.

The Turkish lira dipped a day after data showed industrial production grew at its slowest pace in almost two years in August, reinforcing concerns about a sharp slowdown in the economy. 

A Reuters poll showed Turkish economic growth was expected to fall short of sharply lowered government forecasts this year and next, with a recession now likely in the coming six months.

Still, the Turkish treasury said it had sold $2 billion of the 5-year Eurobond at a yield of 7.5 per cent with demand exceeding $6 billion — pointing to a recovery in investors' confidence in the country.

South Africa's rand weakened for the first time in five days as investors awaited retail sales for clues on the economy's health, especially after it unexpectedly tipped into recession in the second quarter.

Ratings agency Moody's said on Tuesday that it expected new South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to keep the government's broad policies intact in the medium-term budget speech due next week.

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