EM-virus worries drag down stocks ahead of US data

Rand erased early gains to trade down 0.3% after having lost almost 1% in the previous session.
Image: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

Emerging market assets were under pressure on Friday, due to fears about the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and the tightening of business regulations in China, while South Africa’s rand fell after a new finance minister was appointed.

MSCI’s EM equity gauge fell 0.4%, although still set to finish the week in positive territory after two weeks of falls.

China’s equity markets continued their recent choppiness, with the country reporting 124 confirmed cases for August 5, its highest daily count for new coronavirus cases in the current outbreak.

Russian stocks fell on a slide in energy shares, while shares in Turkey and South Africa eked out gains of around 0.3% each.

Investors will also be looking out for US non-farm payrolls data for July later on Friday, with job growth likely to have remained robust and rising by at least 1 million.

“With maximum employment one of the US Federal Reserve’s dual mandate, stronger jobs data could further reinforce market expectations looking for the Fed to bring forward policy normalisation timeline,” said strategists at Maybank.

MSCI’s currency index was 0.2% weaker, with Turkey’s lira down 0.7% in its fourth consecutive day of losses, while Russia’s rouble was little changed against the dollar.

Russia’s Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said increasing state spending to help offset the impact of the central bank’s monetary policy tightening should be considered.

South Africa’s rand erased early gains to trade down 0.3% after having lost almost 1% in the previous session.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday appointed the Development Bank of Southern Africa’s chair, Enoch Godongwana, as finance minister in a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing Tito Mboweni who had asked to be excused from his position.

Strategists at Citi said the change is neutral to slightly positive given Godongwana’s strong support for Ramaphosa.

Jakob Christensen, chief analyst and head of EM research at Danske bank, notes that given Godongwana has been working for the African Development Fund, he is well know by local and international investors.

“He has (also) been proactive in trying to water down some of the populist policies by (former South African President Jacob) Zuma. On balance, he is not going to stir the international community, and so is not negative for South African assets.”

Romania’s leu was unchanged ahead of a central bank meeting where rates are expected to be kept on hold.

Among bonds, JPMorgan said it has turned net bullish on hard currency emerging market sovereign and semi-sovereign debt by going overweight on the EMBI Global Diversified index.

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