By Netty Ismail, Simon Flint and Sydney Maki
Emerging markets head into the last full trading week before the U.S. election with stocks and currencies near their highest levels since January and dollar-bond spreads close to their narrowest since February.
Don’t expect it to get much better than that in coming days.
Caution is likely to be the watchword for investors, with the Nov. 3 vote set to reveal not just whether Joe Biden’s opinion-poll lead over Donald Trump will propel him to victory, but also determine the fate of the much-anticipated U.S. stimulus package. And there’s always the risk of a contested result.
“It makes sense for emerging-market investors to maintain only light (risk-bullish) positions in the remaining days before the U.S. election,” a Credit Suisse SA team including Kasper Bartholdy, managing director of fixed-income strategy in London, wrote in a report. “This is in part because we see sizable residual scope for the ‘Biden/Trump U.S. voter-support gap’ to fluctuate. It is also because we see a large risk that ongoing negotiations in the U.S. about pre-election fiscal-policy stimulus will falter and cause some temporary market consternation.”
That investors are wary of putting too much on the line right now is already apparent. Implied currency volatility declined for a fourth week in the past five trading days, the longest streak since June. The main MSCI indexes of stocks and currencies barely budged Friday. A Bloomberg-Barclays gauge of emerging-market dollar bonds was also little changed, while inflows to emerging-market exchange-traded funds slowed down last week.
That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of emerging-market events to keep traders on their toes this week. China said Monday it will impose unspecified sanctions on the defense unit of Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon Technologies Corp. after the U.S. approved $1.8 billion in arms sales to Taiwan last week. South Africa will present its medium-term budget, which will set out the nation’s spending and borrowing targets for the next three years. And there are monetary-policy meetings in Brazil and Colombia.
China’s Five-Year Plan
- The central committee of China’s Communist Party meets Monday through Thursday to discuss the next five-year plan. At the close of the plenum there should be a broad sense of what the plan will be, although the details will only be revealed in March.
- The plenum is a chance for China’s planners to emphasize their vision for technological leadership and supply-side reforms.
- Some emphasis may also be placed on expanding domestic financial markets, which may attract more foreign capital, as opposed to allowing too much growth of already bloated bank loan books.
- There’s also likely to be a debate about whether to announce a growth target. An ambitious number, say above 5-5.5%, would suggest more emphasis is being placed on the quantity of growth rather than its quality, and may increase the possibility of additional stimulus.
- The nation recently completed a comprehensive review of its strategy for the internationalization of the yuan. People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang said that promoting broader use of the yuan will continue alongside the opening of markets.
- The currency reached the strongest level in more than two years last week as the dollar weakened and China’s recovery from the pandemic showed signs of broadening in September.
- China will publish September industrial profits on Tuesday.
- Official October PMI numbers due on Saturday are expected to show continued expansion.
Central Banks on Hold
- Brazil’s central bank will probably hold its key interest rate steady on Wednesday as investors search for clues on the policy makers’ next steps, according to Bloomberg Economics.
- On Friday, money managers will watch for August unemployment figures, September’s primary budget balance and a reading of net debt as a percentage of GDP.
- Colombian policy makers may keep their key interest rate at a record low on Friday, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
- The Colombian peso is the best-performer among Latin American peers this month after its Mexican counterpart.
- South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will present the medium-term budget policy statement on Wednesday after asking parliament to delay it by a week so the Treasury can assess the implications of the government’s economic recovery plan on spending.
- There’s “limited potential” for the rand to strengthen beyond the 16.08 per-dollar intraday peak seen in September and investors should trim their positions in local-currency bonds before then, according to Credit Suisse.
- Credit Suisse sees a “high chance that the Treasury will fail to deliver meaningful fiscal consolidation measures in the near term,” a team including Kasper Bartholdy said.
- The rand is one of the best-performing developing-nation currencies this month.
Data and Events
- South Korea will announce third-quarter GDP on Tuesday, with economists projecting growth of 1.3% over the previous three months.
- The country will also release October consumer confidence on Wednesday, and November business confidence on Thursday. Industrial production for September due on Friday is expected to show the first year-on-year growth since March.
- October trade numbers are due on Sunday. The month had fewer working days than October 2019, meaning the data are expected to show a year-on-year decline.
- South Korea’s won was the strongest currency in Asia again last week despite warnings of intervention from authorities.
- Malaysia’s September trade accounts are due on Wednesday, with the consensus for a slight widening of the surplus.
- The ringgit was little changed last week amid a decline in political noise.
- However, the King’s refusal to grant the Government a state of emergency to tackle the pandemic — which was viewed by the opposition as an attempt by the premier to retain control amid a power struggle — will keep markets on the alert.
- Thailand’s cabinet is due to meet Monday and Tuesday to discuss how to respond to the ongoing anti-government protests.
- September manufacturing production is due on Wednesday, with economists forecasting a slower pace of decline. Balance-of-payments and trade numbers are due on Friday.
- The baht was Asia’s worst-performing currency last week after the Indian rupee. The currency dropped despite attempts by the prime minister to calm political tensions by lifting the state of emergency.
- Taiwan will release third-quarter GDP on Friday, with a small return to growth anticipated.
- Taiwan’s dollar maintained its recent pattern of strengthening during the day and erasing its advance toward the close of trading.
- Turkey’s central bank will reveal its latest inflation forecast in its quarterly report on Wednesday.
- The lira weakened through 8 per dollar for the first time amid deepening skepticism over the central bank’s efforts to shore up the currency at a time of rising geopolitical tensions.
- After an unexpected rate hike in September stoked bets that the central bank had shifted to a hawkish stance, policy makers surprised the markets by keeping the policy rate on hold last week.
- Chile voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to draft a new constitution, which is expected to blunt the neo-liberalism that has made it an investor favorite but plunged it into riots over inequality.
- Central bank minutes, to be released on Friday, will likely reflect the monetary authority’s plans to keep its rate steady through 2021.
- Unemployment, retail sales and copper-production figures for September, also expected on Friday, will provide clues on how the nation’s economy has fared amid the pandemic and uncertainty over constitutional reform.
- A preliminary reading of Mexico’s third-quarter gross domestic product, scheduled for Friday, is expected to show that activity bottomed in the second quarter, according to Bloomberg Economics.
- Argentine traders will be watching for any developments on how the government plans to handle its currency crisis as the gap between the official peso and the blue-chip swap rate widens.
- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is unlikely to release a much-watched report on international currency manipulation that was due in April until after the Nov. 3 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.
- Emerging-market currencies could rally 5% by the end of the year should Biden win the presidential election, Morgan Stanley strategists including James Lord and Jaiparan Khurana wrote. In its recommendation to investors, the firm said it entered long positions in the South African rand and Russian ruble against the dollar, and has moved to shorts on the U.S. currency versus the Brazilian real, Mexican peso and Colombian peso.
Credit: Stocks-Markets-Economic Times