Progress in U.S. tax reform plans lifted emerging stocks on Friday, but a stronger dollar and higher U.S. Treasury yields scuppered currencies, which looked set for daily and weekly losses.
The U.S. Senate approved a budget blueprint for the 2018 fiscal year late on Thursday, paving the way for Republicans to seek a tax-cuts package without Democratic support, and resurrecting expectations that the reflation trade was back on track.
MSCI’s emerging market stock index rose 0.4 percent on the day. But after seesawing all week and despite hitting fresh six-year highs on Monday, the benchmark was still on track for a weekly loss of -0.4 percent.
Yet with the dollar index set for a 0.5 percent gain on the week, and U.S. Treasury yields rising steadily on prospects that lower tax rates would spur faster economic growth whilst ramping up inflationary pressures, emerging currencies felt the pinch.
“It’s mostly the global backdrop and particularly U.S. yields and the dollar, which are looking supported ahead of the Fed tightening at the end of this year,” said Sebastian Barbe, global head of EM research and strategy at Credit Agricole.
“This story of U.S. dollar strengthening is the main hurdle on the road of emerging markets getting back to a bullish outlook.”
South Africa – vulnerable to swings in U.S. borrowing costs due to its large external financing needs – saw its currency suffer some of the biggest losses.
The rand weakened 1.5 percent on the day and looked to ease nearly 3 percent over the week – the biggest such fall since early August.
Messy politics added to the woes of the African continent’s most industrialised economy after embattled President Jacob Zuma announced his second cabinet reshuffle in seven months earlier in the week, while a graft probe surrounding government relations with the Gupta family has been escalating.
“The market now seems more open to consider political fragility as something that could weigh on the currency,” said Barbe.
China’s yuan edged lower and looked on track for a 0.6 percent fall over the week, with investors nervously eyeing the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress.
Speaking on the sidelines of the congress on Thursday, China’s central bank chief issued a stark warning about asset bubbles in the world’s second-largest economy, which looks set to clock its first acceleration in annual growth since 2010, driven by public spending and record bank lending.
Turkey’s lira was set to end the weak nearly 1 percent weaker in its six straight week of losses.
Across central and eastern Europe, currencies were treading water against the euro as investors awaited guidance from next week’s European Central Bank meeting.
The Czech crown hovered close to the four-year highs hit earlier in the week ahead of two-day elections kicking off later in the day.
Czech voters look set to hand power to billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, whose anti-establishment rhetoric has convinced voters he can fix the EU country’s problems, from graft to transportation.