China powers emerging markets to 2-month high

2012-01-17 15:19

London - Emerging stocks leapt 2% to their highest in two months on Tuesday as better-than-expected Chinese growth numbers and a record rise in German economic sentiment revived risk appetite.

South Africa’s All Share [JSE:J203] index hit an all-time high while Hungary’s forint reversed a two-session loss, despite expectations that the European Commission will soon launch legal action against Budapest over its policies to curb the independence of its media, judiciary and central bank.

Data showing China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growing nearly 9% in the fourth quarter of 2011 overshadowed news of Standard and Poor’s downgrading the credit rating of the eurozone’s rescue fund late on Monday - a step S&P said was all but inevitable after it cut the ratings of nine eurozone member states last Friday.

Hopes that the global economy can avoid a prolonged downturn were reinforced by a monthly poll of German analyst and investor sentiment showing the largest single monthly increase since the survey started in 1991.

In afternoon trade, the key emerging equity index had jumped 2.1% while emerging sovereign debt tightened 5 basis points to trade 388 bps over US Treasuries.

“The market reaction is rather encouraging. We got the European downgrade, the downgrade of the EFSF... and then we got the data from China and the markets are rallying,” said Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets analyst at Danske Bank.

The Thomson Reuters Emerging European stock index rose 1.3% with Polish and Russian shares, denominated in both roubles and dollars, reaching over one-month highs.

All Share record

Hopes that China’s appetite for raw materials will hold up also boosted shares in South Africa, Russia’s commodity-exporting peer, helping the main index to extend gains for a second day to touch a record high.

The rand rose 1% to its highest to the dollar in a month, continuing to recover from its sharp fall on Friday when Fitch inflicted a surprise ratings outlook downgrade on the country.

Improved risk appetite also buoyed Turkish shares 1.6%, lifting the lira to its strongest level to the dollar since early December.

The Polish zloty touched a nine-week high versus the euro, though the Romanian leu snapped a five-session winning streak. The forint halted a two-session decline which saw the unit shed some 2% of its value against the euro, rising over half a percentage point.

Investors, however, are still concerned that Hungary’s centre-right government remains on a collision course with the European Union.

The European Commission, which meets later in the day, is expected to launch legal action over Hungary’s bank law, the retirement age of judges and prosecutors, and a data protection authority.

Talks between the International Monetary Fund and Hungary for a much-needed financial package have stalled over the fund’s insistence on seeing policy reform in the country.

“(Investors are) trying to gauge whether an improvement could soon be on the horizon and whether current levels actually offered an attractive entry opportunity,” Societe General said in a research note.

“We do not believe that it is the case for now... Strategy-wise, we recommend buying euro/forint,” it said.