EM-Russian rouble extends gains; Omicron worries limit gains for EM stocks

Emerging market currencies firmed on Tuesday, with Russia’s rouble up for a fourth straight session as Moscow holds talks with the West, while gains in developing world stocks were limited by Omicron worries hitting China shares.

All eyes will be US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell’s nomination speech later in the day for clues on monetary policy.

Ahead of Wednesday’s US inflation figures which are expected to show a rise, Wall Street banks now expect four interest rate hikes this year – one more than what the Fed had signalled.

With the dollar making small moves, most currencies of emerging markets firmed.

Russia’s rouble rose 0.4%, with oil prices also lending support. Talks between Moscow and Washington on Monday yielded no breakthroughs with both sides remaining far apart on their differences on Ukraine.

“A good outcome would be no escalation, that we come out these negotiations with more negotiations coming, this would be my base case scenario,” said Kiti Pantskhava, deputy head of research at BCS Global Markets, adding that while this would not improve sentiment towards Russian risk, it would not make it worse.

Rising geopolitical tensions have started to underscore an underperformance of the rouble against some emerging market peers.

Moscow’s meetings with NATO members and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe this week are in focus.

In Kazakhstan, Russia-led troops that helped quell a country-wide unrest will start leaving the nation in two days, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said.

This is good news in terms of trading fixed income markets, BCS’ Pantskhava said.

“If it all happened as planned, and smoothly, that would be in a way a demonstration of validity of regional political alliances and how it works.”

Kazakh hard currency bonds have been volatile after sliding to over 20-month lows last week.

Tokayev called for foreign exchange market stability in order to build confidence in the local tenge currency. After having declined over 3% in 2021, the tenge is down about 0.3% in January.

Turkey’s volatile lira slipped 1.6% after data showed the country’s current account surplus reversed to a more-than-expected deficit of $2.681 billion in November.

MSCI’s index of emerging market stocks rose for a third straight session, up 0.5%, although mainland China and Hong Kong shares lost between 0.1% and 1% amid rising coronavirus cases and curbs.

In central and eastern Europe, After Poland’s 50 basis points hike last week, Romania delivered a cautious 25 basis points point hike to 2% on Monday, suggesting it is getting further behind the curve.

Source: moneyweb.co.za