South African rand, Russian rouble rise; stocks at record high


SOUTH Africa’s rand and Russia’s rouble rose as most other emerging market currencies were muted against the dollar, while stocks inched up to a record high on continued optimism over easy monetary policy and stimulus measures

The MSCI’s index of emerging market equities rose 0.1% to hit a record high for a second consecutive session, with most bourses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa trading higher. The South African rand rose about 0.6% to the dollar, but stayed within a trading range seen since last week as weak manufacturing data from the country pointed to more economic woes.

Most market participants expect the South African central bank to hold interest rates at a record low through 2021 in order to support a local economic recovery.

Russia’s rouble rose after the central bank’s surprise decision on Wednesday to buy foreign exchange on the local market this month, following 10 consecutive months of sales.

Most other currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa moved in a flat-to-slightly higher range after U.S. yields rose on reports of a larger-than-expected stimulus package. The dollar resumed its rebound from 2018 lows.

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Investors have been watching for any spikes in U.S. inflation, which could lead to the Federal Reserve tapering its bond-buying program, thereby pushing up yields and making the dollar more attractive.

“Rising inflation will be one of the hottest topics in 2021, but it’s too early for the Fed to announce any tapering of asset purchases. Any signs of this may bring an end to the Dollar’s decline as higher yields begin to attract dollar inflows,” Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM, wrote in a note.

Turkish stocks rose 0.2% on Thursday to a record high.

Concerns over Turkey’s foreign exchange reserves have somewhat offset optimism over a monetary tightening cycle in the country, hurting the lira recently. Turkish house sales also nearly halved in December as a year-end boom in credit faded.

In Asia, Chinese shares slumped as the country reported its biggest jump in COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months.

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But Hong Kong-listed shares of Alibaba and Tencent surged after reports the Trump administration had scrapped plans to blacklist the Chinese tech giants.

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