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EM-Stocks rise; rouble jumps over 1% ahead of US-Russia talks

The rouble firmed up to 1.5% against the dollar and was on course for its best session in six weeks, last at 75 per greenback.
Image: Shutterstock

Emerging market stocks firmed on Monday after last week’s fall, as investors focused on Omicron cases and US inflation data this week, while the Russian rouble jumped ahead of Moscow’s talks with Washington over its military build-up near Ukraine.

The rouble firmed up to 1.5% against the dollar and was on course for its best session in six weeks, last at 75 per greenback.

Ahead of talks with Moscow, Washington said no breakthroughs were expected and the discussions might end early with both sides maintaining a hard-line stance.

The tensions have seen the rouble give up its gains and lag the broader EM currencies index since November.

“While US/EU sanctions and other constant geopolitical risks imposed a steady premium on Russian assets even before, (the rouble’s underperformance) confirms that this idiosyncratic factor has now got dominant,” said Tatha Ghose, a FX and EM analyst at Commerzbank.

Kazakh dollar bonds broadly trod water. Kazakhstan’s authorities said the situation was stabilising, with Russian-led troops guarding key facilities after the worst unrest in decades.

“The fact that (Russian President Vladimir Putin) is now helping dictate what is going on in both Ukraine and Kazakhstan will no doubt make the dollar attractive as safe-haven,” said Juan Perez, a senior FX trader and strategist at Tempus, signalling more weakness might be in store for the rouble.

Turkey’s lira rose to trade below 14 a dollar. Data showed Turkey’s unemployment rate stood unchanged in November at 11.2% from a month earlier, while underutilisation continued to fall.

Investors globally now await US inflation data due on Wednesday, with expectation for both core and headline inflation to rise, strengthening the case for a March interest rate hike.

Faster-than-expected US Federal Reserve moves could rattle financial markets in emerging economies and trigger capital outflows and currency depreciation abroad, the International Monetary Fund warned.

MSCI’s index of EM stocks rose 0.7%, with most major bourses well in positive territory.

But there were wild swings in China’s property sector with Shimao jumping 20% after a fire sale of all its real estate projects, while Modern Land plunged 40% after trading hiatus.

Pandemic worries also lingered with the northern Chinese city of Tianjin tightening exit controls to block the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant.

In central and eastern Europe, the Czech crown hit a fresh nine-year high against the euro. Poland’ zloty hit a three-month high ahead of anti-inflationary measures expected to be announced on Tuesday.

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