|10 October, 2019

EM assets tread cautiously ahead of U.S.-China trade talks

Chinese yuan firms on trade optimism

A soft dollar supported China's yuan and a swathe of emerging market currencies on Thursday after reports that Washington and Beijing may agree a partial trade deal, but investors were unsettled about the outcome of a crucial round of negotiations.

The yuan danced to the tune of clashing trade headlines, last trading up 0.2% in offshore trading after Bloomberg reported a previously agreed currency pact could be part of a deal suspending further tariff hikes. 

A handful of other media reports on Thursday signalled progress in trade talks, denting the U.S. dollar and spurring a mini-rally in risk assets that took a hit from news on Wednesday that Washington had widened its trade blacklist to include some of China's top artificial intelligence startups.

Trade officials from both sides were scheduled to meet in Washington on Thursday and Friday to try to end their bruising 15-month-old trade war.

"Markets have been factoring in a good deal of probability for a positive outcome," said Jakob Christensen, head of EM research at Danske Bank.

Trade-sensitive Asian currencies such as the Korean won and Taiwanese dollar rose about 0.1%, while the Russian rouble  steadied and the South African rand gained 0.3%

The Turkish lira languished near 4-month lows at 5.8806 per dollar after U.S. senators outlined possible sanctions on Turkey, including targeting the U.S. assets of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and imposing visa restrictions. 

The currency broke past a key level of support at 5.85 per dollar on Wednesday after Turkey launched a military operation targeting Kurdish fighters in northeast Syrian. 

"The lira could be vulnerable here, but the immediate impact compared to what we were looking at last year, where there were talks about really tightening sanctions, hitting Turkey's ability to raise funds in international capital markets, this is more isolated to the military and the energy sectors," said Danske's Christensen.

In east Europe, the Czech crown slid against the euro after data showed inflation fell 0.6% in September, its steepest decline since September 2006, likely taking some pressure off the central bank to continue tightening monetary policy. 

Developing world stocks were flat, with Chinese stocks gaining on hopes of a trade deal, while Taiwanese and Indian shares dropped about 0.8% and 1%, respectively.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Giles Elgood) ((sruthi.shankar@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780; outside U.S. +91 80 6749 6328))

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