FX, stocks gain as Omicron fears ease; Polish, Brazil c.banks in focus

Rand steadies ahead of retail sales data

The rand and other currencies rose as fears around Omicron eased.
The rand and other currencies rose as fears around Omicron eased.
Image: 123RF/ALLAN SWART

Most emerging market stocks and currencies rose on Wednesday as fears over the potential impact of the Omicron variant receded, while the Polish zloty firmed ahead of a widely expected central bank rate hike.

The rand on Wednesday rose 0.5% against the dollar ahead of October retail sales data and business confidence figures for November, as investors sought to gauge fourth-quarter economic growth after GDP shrank by more than expected in the third quarter.

MSCI's indexes of emerging market stocks and currencies gained 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively, tracking a rally in global markets on signs that the Omicron coronavirus variant is causing mainly mild infections.

Chinese stocks, which make up more than a third of the MSCI EM stock index, hit two-month highs as monetary easing measures by the central bank helped investors look past concerns over debt defaults in the property market. The yuan also firmed.

China Evergrande's shares hit a record low after it missed a debt payment deadline, while smaller peer Kaisa Group Holdings also seemed unlikely to meet a $400 million offshore debt deadline.

Wednesday was also marked by several EM central bank meetings. India left its rate unchanged at record lows, while Brazil is expected to hike by 150 basis points (bps) later today.

The Polish zloty rose slightly against the euro, as investors anticipated an at least 50 bps interest rate hike by the central bank.

The move would bring Polish interest rates to their highest in more than six years, with the central bank acting largely hawkish in response to inflation reaching a two-decade high.

"The comments of the majority of members of the Monetary Policy Committee were all hawkish since the release of much higher CPI inflation for November... we cannot rule (out) a more aggressive policy rate increase, including a hike by 100 bps," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a note.

Central banks in emerging markets have consistently hiked interest rates this year to help curb rising inflation. However, risks of higher U.S. rates have dented the attractiveness of EM currencies.

Russia's rouble gained 0.3% as talks between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden seemingly calmed some nerves over escalating tensions between the two nations.

Focus was also on upcoming inflation readings, which could factor into the breadth of the Russian central bank's next interest rate hike.

The Turkish lira slipped 0.8% after gaining more than 2% in the previous session.

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