Emerging market stocks fell on Wednesday, on track for their longest losing streak since August 2019, as the rising death toll from the coronavirus outbreak fanned fears of an economic slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.
An index of emerging market stocks was down -0.1%, as risk appetite declined for the fifth straight session. The basket has now lost 4% in just over one week, when the flu-like virus pushed investors to cut back exposure to riskier assets.
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it was confident in China’s ability to contain the virus, concern is mounting with the death toll rising sharply to 132 and the first case appearing in the Middle East.
Declines in developing world assets were led by Hong Kong shares, which tumbled nearly 3% in their worst session in over a year, dragged by the financial services, real estate and consumer goods sectors.
MSCI’s index for emerging market currencies remained flat with commodity-exposed currencies including the South African rand and the Russian rouble weakening against the dollar.
“Events in China impact the global currency markets via two channels; the risk channel, as global growth concerns hit equity markets and the commodity channel, given the importance of China in global commodity demand,” analysts from ING wrote in a note.
Russia’s currency also came under some pressure after the end of the local tax-payment period by Russian exporters.
South African stocks were among the few outperformers on the day, with the benchmark JSE Topn40 index up more than 1%.
Shares in gold miners led advances in Africa’s most industrialised economy, after the price of the yellow metal inched up as concerns about the coronavirus led to a bout of safe-haven buying.
Market players are also awaiting an interest rate decision from the US Federal Reserve, as it will be concluding its two-day policy meeting later on Wednesday and is almost certain to leave lending rates on hold.