EM Review: Phase-One Trade Deal Signed as Rate Cuts Supported

(Bloomberg) --

Emerging-market stocks and currencies climbed for a seventh straight week to reach 19-month highs last week as the U.S. and China signed the first phase of a trade deal. Asian currencies including the Indonesian rupiah, Chinese renminbi and Malaysian ringgit led the currency gains as risk-on sentiment strengthened.

The following is a roundup of emerging-markets news and highlights for the week ending Jan. 19.

Read here our emerging-market weekly preview, and listen here to our weekly podcast

Highlights:

  • The U.S. and China signed what they billed as the first phase of a broader trade pact on Wednesday amid persistent questions over whether President Donald Trump’s efforts to rewrite the economic relationship with Beijing will ever go any further
    • In a letter read out during the signing at the White House, Chinese leader Xi Jinping asked Trump to take steps to “enhance mutual trust and cooperation between us”
  • The Trump administration lifted its designation of China as a currency cheat, saying the nation has made “enforceable commitments” not to devalue the yuan and has agreed to publish exchange-rate information
    • China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam remained on the monitoring list for potential currency manipulation
  • The Commerce Department has drafted a rule that would allow it to block exports to Huawei Technologies Co. specifically if U.S. components make up more than 10% of product value, Reuters reported, citing two unidentified people familiar with the matter
  • Trump plans to nominate Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller to join the Federal Reserve, the White House said
  • China’s economy stabilized last quarter after slowing to the weakest pace in almost three decades, with the first acceleration in investment since June signaling that a firmer recovery could be underway. Gross domestic product rose 6% in the final quarter of 2019 from a year earlier, while fixed-asset investment gained 5.4% in the year

    • The country’s total exports expanded in 2019 while trade with the U.S. dropped amid the trade war
  • Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar blocked oil exports at ports under his control, slashing the OPEC nation’s output by more than half and posing a potential setback for an international conference in Berlin that aims to end a civil war
  • Turkey’s central bank opted for the smallest interest-rate cut since embarking on an easing cycle under a new governor in July, balancing demands for lower borrowing costs from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the risk of a market backlash. It reduced its key rate to 11.25% from 12%
    • Turkish interest rates will continue to fall, Erdogan said
    • The nation reduced the maximum amount of gold that banks can hold as part of their lira required reserves to 20% from 30%
  • The South African Reserve Bank unexpectedly cut its benchmark rate to the lowest level in four years after slashing forecasts for inflation and economic growth. The Monetary Policy Committee unanimously voted to lower the repurchase rate to 6.25% from 6.5%
  • Egypt surprisingly refrained from another rate cut after inflation ticked up in December, keeping the deposit rate at 12.25%
  • Vladimir Putin outlined a raft of proposed constitutional changes aimed at strengthening the powers of the parliament and other government bodies, fueling speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for keeping power beyond the end of his current term in 2024
  • Lebanon’s plan to steer through its debt crisis by getting local investors to swap into longer-dated Eurobonds has come unstuck after rating companies warned they would consider it a “selective default,” a person familiar with the matter said
    • Lebanese Eurobonds maturing in March dropped the most on record as the threat of a downgrade to near default added to selling pressure
  • Investors poured more than $1 billion into emerging-market exchange-traded funds for a fifth week, marking more than three months of net inflows amid optimism surrounding the phase-one U.S.-China trade truce
  • Iraq temporarily stopped work on an oil field on Sunday and supply from a second production site is at risk as widespread unrest escalates in one of OPEC’s biggest producers
Asset Moves:Weekly
MSCI EM stocks index+1.2%
MSCI EM FX index+0.1%
Bloomberg Barclays Global EM Local Currency bond index+0.3%

Asia:

  • Effective Feb. 1, foreign banks and non-bank investors will be allowed to enter China’s interbank foreign-exchange market via prime brokers, the country’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange said
    • China added liquidity to the financial system Wednesday, helping to offset a cash squeeze ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. It kept interest rates on the loans unchanged. The People’s Bank of China added 300 billion yuan ($44 billion) through the medium-term lending facility at 3.25%
  • South Korea’s employment rate hit a record high in 2019, offering President Moon Jae-in evidence that he is delivering on his pledge to provide more jobs, ahead of a parliamentary election. The employment rate climbed to 60.9% last year

    • The Bank of Korea left its key interest rate unchanged at 1.25% in its first policy decision of the year. Governor Lee Ju-yeol said two board members, Cho Dong-chul and Shin In-seok, dissented the decision to keep policy unchanged and instead called for a rate cut
    • Overseas investors bought net 4 trillion won ($3.5 billion) of Korea-listed bonds and redeemed 6.5 trillion won at maturity in December, South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service said
    • National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the White House has “reached out” to North Korea, seeking the resumption of diplomacy that has been dormant since October, Axios reported
  • India’s consumer-price inflation hit a more than five-year high, boosting the case for the central bank to keep rates on hold for longer and possibly putting at risk its accommodative stance

    • India’s trade deficit narrowed more than estimated to $11.25 billion in December, as imports declined for a seventh straight month
    • A former top official in India’s Finance Ministry claims the government is understating the fiscal deficit, raising questions about the figures weeks before the annual budget is due to be released
  • Thailand’s central bank is ready to take additional steps to rein in the currency, Deputy Governor Mathee Supapongse said. It seeks to diversify risks and boost returns by investing part of its record-high reserves in stocks and corporate bonds in developed and developing economies, he said
    • Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said any measures authorities take to curb gains in the currency won’t disrupt the “market mechanism” of the baht
    • The Board of Investment will issue measures to encourage companies to import capital goods and machinery for investment amid the current baht strength, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said
    • Thailand’s private sector needs to import and invest more to balance out the nation’s inflows, Somkid said
    • The government expects to spend 1 trillion baht ($33 billion) next quarter
  • United Arab Emirates agrees to set aside $22.8 billion for investment in Indonesian sovereign wealth fund, according to Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretariat
    • Bank Indonesia reiterates that intervention measures won’t be taken as long as the rupiah’s appreciation is in line with fundamentals. Inflows coming into the country have helped the gain, Deputy Governor Dody Budi Waluyo said
    • The central bank will maintain its accommodative policy stance as economic growth remains a concern, I.G.P Wira Kusuma, director of economic and monetary policy department at Bank Indonesia, said
    • President Joko Widodo has warned gains in the nation’s currency may hurt exports and undermine efforts to rein in a persistent current-account deficit
    • Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is finally poised to take the title of the biggest equity market in the region. Its market value of about $529 billion has nearly matched that of slumping Thailand
  • Markets were shut in the Philippines on Jan. 13 as an erupting volcano 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of the capital spurred a mass evacuation
    • Businesses reopened after a tangle of cracks appeared around the volcano that’s triggered hundreds of earthquakes and urgent pleas for residents to evacuate some areas
    • On the economic front, the Philippines “still has a lot of monetary and fiscal space,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said
  • Taiwan’s central bank denied it has been using currency swaps to intervene in the foreign exchange market, pushing back against a U.S. Treasury report that expressed concern about the nation’s FX policies. It again said later that the bank uses FX swaps as a money-market tool, and not to intervene in the foreign-exchange market
    • The yield on Taiwan’s 10-year government bonds fell to a record low as insurers roar back into the market

EMEA:

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned European countries that their soldiers in the Middle East could be exposed to greater danger in the future if instability fueled by the presence of their American counterparts continues
    • European nations insist they still want to save the Iran nuclear deal, but to do that they now need to turn up the pressure on Tehran
    • Ukraine called for an investigation by five countries that lost citizens in the downing of a passenger jet leaving Tehran earlier this month -- but said Iran isn’t likely to participate in the probe
    • Iran said it’s arrested a number of people linked to the Jan. 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet, and the country’s president called on the judiciary to form a special court and fully investigate the disaster
  • Ukraine’s top politicians cemented a bond of mutual loyalty when the president rejected the resignation of his prime minister, who had offered to quit after being caught on tape criticizing his boss’s grasp of the economy
  • Haitham bin Tariq Al Said has been sworn in as the new ruler of Oman, succeeding his cousin Sultan Qaboos who died at the age of 79 after almost half a century at the country’s helm
  • Kuwait unveiled budget proposals that forecast its biggest-ever deficit for the year starting April 1, outlining fiscal plans that include a drop of more than 6% in revenue while keeping spending unchanged
  • A month after the world’s largest initial public offering, Saudi Aramco’s investment banks aren’t exactly bullish, with most recommending investors avoid the stock as they kicked off research coverage
  • The Czech koruna appreciated to its strongest since the central bank stopped limiting the currency’s gains in 2017, driven by investors bets that policy makers will resume rate increases
    • Czech interest rates will probably remain stable as the central bank expects inflation to slow in the second half of the year following a surprising surge in late 2019, according to Governor Jiri Rusnok
  • A new safe zone should be established jointly by Turkey and Russia to protect people fleeing a Syrian government onslaught on the country’s last rebel stronghold, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday
  • Egyptian police raided the Turkish state news agency’s office in Cairo and detained four employees, a move that may strain already fraught relations between the regional rivals
  • South African retail sales beat estimates and grew the most in seven months in November as specials offered by retailers boosted trade
    • Consumer confidence remained trapped at a two-year low and economic prospects are expected to worsen
  • Kenyans can expect a more austere government after years of unbridled borrowing that financed “conspicuous consumption,” according to its new Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani

Latin America:

  • Argentina recorded its biggest increase in prices last year since 1991 when the South American nation was recovering from hyperinflation

    • Buenos Aires province started talks with some creditors as officials seek their blessing on a plan to delay a $250 million payment due later this month
  • Brazil’s retail sales grew at half the pace expected by analysts in November, capping a month of disappointing data that throws cold water on optimism surrounding the recovery of Latin America’s largest economy
    • Traders increased bets Brazil will deliver another rate cut in February after the disappointing data
    • Economic activity increased slightly in November, while the previous month’s gains were revised downward
    • Trump’s trade deal may have been short on details about Chinese agriculture purchases, but one thing seems clear: Brazil’s two-year, non-stop soybean bonanza will likely come to an end
    • President Jair Bolsonaro is set to visit India this month, aiming to boost trade with a rapidly growing market as ties with neighboring Argentina deteriorate
  • Mexico made key data on its sovereign oil hedge a state secret to shield the information from speculators and prevent cost increases
    • An indicator of long-term growth prospects fell in Mexico for a ninth month in October, the longest losing streak since the 2009 recession
    • The Senate approved President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement on Thursday
    • Foreign investors snapped up Mexican government debt at the fastest pace in more than three years last month, according to data tracked by Intercam Casa de Bolsa
  • Paraguay is set to retake its position among the fastest-growing South American economies in 2020 amid monetary stimulus and public investment
  • Peru’s highest court ruled President Martin Vizcarra acted constitutionally when he dissolved Congress last year
  • Chile President Sebastian Pinera announced a pension reform bill that will require employers to contribute to their employees’ savings for their pensions as well as a new public solidarity fund
  • Former Finance Minister Luis Arce to run for President of Bolivia in May 3 election, ex-president Evo Morales said
  • Venezuela’s international reserves, already at a 30-year low, have hit a grim new milestone as cash holdings fall below $1 billion amid crippling economic sanctions
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