Vaccine Progress Spurs Optimism in Emerging Markets

(Bloomberg) -- Emerging-market stocks and currencies gained last week amid optimism progress is being made toward developing coronavirus vaccines, and as more nations roll back lockdowns. Sentiment was tempered as the week progressed by signs U.S.-China tensions increasing once again, with the Chinese foreign minister warning some in the U.S. are pushing relations into a “New Cold War” on Sunday. This followed escalating rhetoric from President Donald Trump and Senate legislation that may lead to delisting of Chinese companies from American stock exchanges following China’s announcement of plans to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, which was was rocked again by heavy protest Sunday.

The following is a roundup of emerging-market news and highlights for this week through May 22:


  • The U.S. threw its weight behind one of the fastest-moving experimental solutions to the coronavirus pandemic, pledging as much as $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca Plc to help make the University of Oxford’s Covid vaccine

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is prepared to use its full range of tools and leave the benchmark lending rate near zero until the economy is back on track; he reiterated that more fiscal aid may be needed
    • Fed policy makers saw the coronavirus posing a severe threat to the economy when they met last month and were also concerned by the risks to financial stability
  • China has abandoned its usual practice of setting a numerical target for economic growth this year due to the turmoil caused by the coronavirus; it reiterated a pledge to implement the first phase of its trade deal with the U.S.
    • China projected defense spending growth of 6.6% this year, the slowest increase since at least 1991; the nation is pushing ahead with major investment in new infrastructure, assigning it top importance this year
  • China announced plans to rein in dissent by writing a new national security law into Hong Kong’s charter, prompting democracy advocates to call for protests
    • Protesters held their biggest rally in months on Sunday, with more demonstrations planned for later in the week
    • President Donald Trump escalated his rhetoric against China, suggesting that leader Xi Jinping is behind a “disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe”
    • The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation that could lead to Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. being barred from listing on U.S. stock exchanges
    • U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo broke with past U.S. practice and issued a statement congratulating Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen ahead of her inauguration. China denounced the message as “wrong and very dangerous”
    • Tsai urged China’s Xi Jinping to “find a way to co-exist” with the island’s democratic government as she started her second term
  • Argentina will improve the terms of its offer to restructure $65 billion of overseas bonds after sinking into default when it failed to make an interest payment
  • South Africa’s Reserve Bank cut its benchmark rate for the fourth time in four months to support an economy forecast to slump deeper into recession; Turkey’s central bank delivered a ninth straight rate cut in less than a year after measures to prop up the lira drove out foreign investors; Indonesia’s central bank unexpectedly left its benchmark unchanged to bolster the currency; Bank of Thailand cut its key rate to a record and said it was ready to use additional policy tools if needed
  • India’s central bank cut interest rates in an unscheduled announcement, ramping up support for an economy it expects will contract for the first time in more than four decades
  • Brazil overtook the U.K. to become the world’s third most-infected nation and reported record daily deaths; government still hasn’t picked a new health minister following Nelson Teich’s resignation
  • Russia sees its economy contracting 5% this year, according to updated forecast from Russian Economy Ministry
    • President Vladimir Putin may announce a snap ballot within weeks on proposed changes to the constitution that allow him to sidestep term limits, said people familiar the matter
Asset moves last week (in dollars)Weekly
MSCI EM stocks index+0.4%
MSCI EM FX index+0.4%
Bloomberg Barclays Global EM Local Currency bond index+0.7%


  • Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to make any coronavirus vaccine universally available once it’s developed, part of an effort to defuse criticism of his government’s response to a pandemic

    • China’s regulator and some lenders have discussed extending loan relief beyond a June 30 deadline for corporates hurt by the virus outbreak
    • China is considering targeting more Australian exports including wine and dairy, according to people familiar with the matter
    • Shanghai Stock Exchange has started a trial program to allow companies to issue short-term local bonds
    • China’s house-price growth accelerated in April as the central bank’s credit easing gave the property market a lift out of the coronavirus shutdown
  • Bank of Korea said it will provide 80% of a special purpose vehicle’s 10 trillion won ($8.1 billion) of funds to buy corporate debt including lower-rated bonds and commercial paper
    • South Korean students are returning to their classrooms after a five-month break as government health officials declared the country may have avoided a second wave of infections
    • Initial South Korea trade figures for May signaled deep global trade weakness as the coronavirus smothers global economic activity. Though the value of shipments to China fell 1.7%, this was far less than in previous months
  • India’s coronavirus infections crossed the 100,000 mark and are escalating at the fastest pace in Asia, just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi further relaxed the country’s nationwide lockdown
    • The biggest cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal in two decades wreaked havoc along India’s east coast and in Bangladesh, flooding low-lying areas and affecting power supply
    • India’s capital market regulator has allowed some categories of debt mutual funds to invest more in government bonds and treasury bills
    • India’s government said the central bank will increase support for troubled shadow lenders, to stave off defaults as record repayments come due next month
  • Indonesian President Joko Widodo ruled out an immediate easing of social distancing rules and ordered officials to strictly enforce a ban on travel during the busy holiday season to prevent a spike in new coronavirus cases

    • Indonesia will extend $10 billion in financial support to a dozen state-owned companies to tide over the impact of the coronavirus, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said
  • Thailand sees its economy contracting as much as 6% this year as the coronavirus outbreak cuts travel to the tourism-reliant nation and shutters commerce

    • Government agreed to extend state of emergency as suggested by National Security Council, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said
  • The Philippine central bank sees “no apparent and immediate” need to avail itself of the new short-term liquidity line being offered by IMF to members as part of pandemic response, according to Governor Benjamin Diokno; policy space is still sufficient, he said separately
    • The Philippines is considering downsizing lockdowns to villages from regions, as it balances further reopening its economy with stemming the virus outbreak
  • Malaysia’s king warned lawmakers against resorting to hostility and slander, as he spoke at the country’s first parliament sitting since its chaotic change of government two-and-a-half months ago
    • The trial of Malaysia’s former leader Najib Razak resumed on Tuesday, as a settlement deal by his stepson spurred concern over how the new government is handling the 1MDB cases
  • Taiwan’s unemployment rate has reached the highest level in more than 6 years, according to government data released today. The coronavirus pandemic sent April’s jobless rate to 4.1% leaving over 480,000 people unemployed


  • Russia sold the most debt on record in its weekly bond auctions, benefiting from low borrowing costs to fund stimulus plans
    • Russia’s Finance Ministry placed 112 billion rubles ($1.6 billion) of bonds due in October 2027 at its first auction on Wednesday, the most ever for a single offering
    • Trump has decided to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty, an arms-control pact designed to promote transparency between U.S. and Russia, claiming Russian violations
  • Turkey secured a fresh source of foreign exchange from Qatar, leaning again on the gas-rich Gulf nation that’s consistently come to the rescue as part of an alliance born after a coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Romania’s surprise first-quarter economic growth may help the country avoid a credit-rating downgrade next month as investors rush to buy its debt, the finance minister said
  • Abu Dhabi raised more money from international debt markets just weeks after a $7 billion bond sale as it took advantage of a drop in borrowing costs to bolster its finances

  • Egypt may reduce financing in local markets over coming weeks as it tries to cut debt-service costs for one of the Middle East’s most indebted countries, the Finance Ministry said
    • Egypt raised $5 billion in its first sale on international bond markets since November
  • Lebanese banks urged the government to sell state assets and defer maturities to avoid defaulting on its domestic debt and driving the country’s finances into an even deeper crisis
  • Saudi Aramco became the first major global oil producer to see its stock recover to the level it traded at before the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia
  • Zambia is seeking to restructure its debt after years of “over-ambition” in borrowing to plug an infrastructure deficit, the Finance Minister said

    • Bank of Zambia cut its key interest rate for the first time in more than two years to counter the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, even as inflation surged to a 43-month high in April
  • Moeketsi Majoro became Lesotho’s new prime minister, a day after his predecessor resigned amid an investigation into the murder of his ex-wife
  • Zimbabwe’s supply of foreign exchange has increased by 35% since restrictions on using the U.S. dollar for domestic payments were eased, the central bank Governor said
  • South African factory output contracted for the ninth month in February even before a nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting spread of the coronavirus pandemic shuttered all non-essential activity
  • Investors declined to take up all of the five-year bonds on offer at an auction in Kenya this week
  • Rwanda plans to increase budget spending for the coming fiscal year by 8%, saying it needs more money to fend off the Covid-19 pandemic, the Finance Minister said
  • Nigeria’s early move to tap cheap loans improved its risk perception among foreign investors, leading to a decline in the country’s borrowing costs

Latin America:

  • Argentina’s economic activity slid 9.8% in March, a record biggest monthly decline, amid a nationwide lockdown
  • A video of a controversial meeting between Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and members of his cabinet became public on Friday, fueling a political crisis that embroils the president just as the coronavirus pandemic grips the country

    • Brazil overtook Russia and is now second in number of virus cases in the world, trailing only the U.S.
    • Health Ministry loosened protocols for the use of chloroquine, under orders of the president, who ordered the military to ramp up production of the drug
    • The city of Sao Paulo brought forward holidays to increase social isolation rates, which are typically higher on weekends and holidays
    • Bolsonaro asked for state governors and congress to support his veto on an increase in public servants wages
    • Central bank President Roberto Campos Neto promised to step up currency intervention if needed
  • Investors holding debt protection for Ecuador are in line to share compensation of about $60 million after the nation struck a deal with creditors to suspend coupon payments on its foreign debt
    • Ashmore Group Plc and BlackRock Inc. are joining together to present a united front for restructuring talks in Ecuador
    • IDB approved a $250 million loan to Ecuador and nation is launching a $1.2 billion program to revive the economy
    • Ecuador is launching a program with $1.15 billion of funding from international partners to support workers and entrepreneurs, the Finance Minister said
  • Chile’s economy is bracing for a contraction even after activity unexpectedly grew in the first three months of the year during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic
    • Quarantine in capital Santiago was extended for a week
  • Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he is working on a new indicator to measure growth and progress as the country’s economy heads to its biggest contraction in almost a century
    • Mexico’s interest rates will continue to be cut, central bank board member Jonathan Heath said
    • Inflation quickened more than expected in early May as food prices jumped
  • Peru’s economy contracted in the first quarter as the country entered what may be its deepest slump since the 1880s. GDP fell 3.4% from a year earlier
    • Country extended its nationwide quarantine for five weeks, while the reopening of the economy will enter its second phase as planned
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