|22 August, 2019

Equities end 4-day run of gains as Fed plays down aggressive rate cuts

China vows retaliation if U.S. imposes tariffs

Emerging market stocks broke a four-day winning streak on Thursday and currencies weakened as investors sought clarity about further U.S. interest rate cuts after the Federal Reserve's minutes tempered hopes of an aggressive easing cycle.

A near 1% fall in Hong Kong-listed shares amid worries over escalating political protests and 0.8% drop in Indian shares weighed on MSCI's widely-tracked 26-country EM index, which eased 0.4%.

It was the first decline since last week's rout as trade tensions, recession worries and a slump in Argentina's markets caused investors to flee emerging market assets.

Despite stabilising early this week, investors are wary about how far policymakers will go in terms of stimulating their economies with fiscal and monetary measures.

Minutes from the Fed's July meeting showed policymakers were deeply divided over whether to cut interest rates last month but were united in wanting to signal they were not on a preset path to more cuts. 

All eyes will turn to Fed chief Jerome Powell, who is set to speak at the global central bankers' annual policy retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

"The key really is does he (Powell) try and change the tone from those minutes in a more hawkish or a more dovish direction. I'd be very surprised if he did, but that's what's likely to determine the direction for risk assets in the next few days," said Graham Stock, senior EM sovereign strategist, BlueBay Asset Management.

With the U.S. dollar on the front foot, China's yuan CNY= fell to a fresh 11-year low despite support from major state-owned banks in both the spot and forwards markets.

Trade worries also took a toll as China said it hoped the United States will stop its tariff action, adding that any new moves would lead to escalation. 

Turkey's lira fell 0.8% amid worries about tensions in its southeast border with Syria and Iraq, where three Turkish soldiers were killed in a clash with Kurdish militants. 

That overshadowed data showing the consumer confidence index rose to 58.3 points in August from 56.5 in July. 

Indonesian rupiah held steady even as the central bank unexpectedly cut its key interest rate for a second time in two months, saying it would continue with an "accommodative policy mix".

In emerging Europe, the Polish zloty fell 0.4% against the euro, leading declines in the region, partly due to the worrying growth outlook for Germany, its biggest trading partner. The main WIG20 stock index is among the worst emerging market performers this year amid concerns about an unfavourable ruling against Polish banks over mortgages in Swiss francs (CHF) which hurt Poles when the zloty currency weakened.

"The CHF loans have returned to the agenda as the Polish courts have ruled in various directions, and the European Court of Justice has been asked for guidelines, with a ruling on potentially abusive clauses in loan agreements to occur this autumn," analysts at Nordea Markets wrote in a note.

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

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