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Emerging market currencies muted ahead of US inflation data

The MSCI’s index of EM stocks has dropped more than 10% from 2021 highs.
Image: Dimas Ardian, Bloomberg

A more than 1% slide in mainland China and Hong Kong stocks on Beijing’s tightening control over businesses weighed on emerging markets stocks on Tuesday, while deepening crisis at debt-laden Evergrande saw it flag property sales drop and liquidity crunch.

MSCI’s index of EM stocks, which is heavily weighted towards China, lost 0.3%. It has dropped more than 10% from 2021 highs hit in February, thanks largely to plunges in heavyweight China internet and tech stocks following a government crackdown on the sector as well as others.

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Real estate developer China Evergrande’s shares dropped another 11.6% to a near seven-year low, while the Shanghai bourse halted trading of its listed bonds amid wild swings in its price.

The company said on Tuesday it engaged financial advisers as the risk of default rises. Any crisis could potential ripple through China’s banking system and potentially trigger wider social unrest. Other Chinese developers also fell.

But gains elsewhere limited losses for the broader EM stocks index, with Indian and Russian shares hitting all-time highs.

Most EM currencies made muted moves ahead of U.S. inflation data due later in the session. Core inflation is seen rising month-on-month, while on an annual basis, it is seen easing slightly. Overall consumer price inflation is also expected to dip slightly.

This comes ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting next week. A weaker inflation print would fit in with the Fed’s stand that rising inflation is transitory, raising fears of stimulus tapering which could hurt risk assets.

“Today’s data is likely to underpin that the Fed will soon take its foot off the accelerator and will announce a reduction in asset purchases,” said You-Na Park-Heger, a Commerzbank FX and EM analyst.

But she does not see the dollar reacting much to the data.

The dollar index was down 0.2%.

Meanwhile, Hungary said on Monday it would end its self-imposed 7-year abstinence from dollar-denominated borrowing to help fund Prime Minster Viktor Orban’s election campaign.

Dollar-denominated 2023 and 2024 bonds both ticked higher on Tuesday.

In Africa, Angola’s kwanza leapt 2% after Moody’s upgraded the oil producer’s rating on higher crude prices and signs of improvement at its institutions.

The Nigerian naira extended falls against the dollar on the black market on Monday to hit a record low of 550 as buyers tried to secure scarce dollars, traders said.

The central bank in July banned dollar sales to bureaux de change operators, saying they had become conduits for graft and illicit money flows. It used to supply around $100 million weekly to exchange bureaux before the ban.

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