Global stocks hit 2-1/2 month lows as EM selloff continues

LONDON – Global equities hit 2-1/2 month lows on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve pushed ahead with reducing stimulus, raising concern about more emerging markets weakness and pushing investors towards safe-haven bonds.

The Fed trimmed its monthly bond-buying program by $10 billion and made no mention of the turbulence in emerging markets which some investors had thought might delay the widely-flagged policy move.

The prospect of a steady withdrawal of stimulus coupled with improving economies in the developed world has attracted funds away from many emerging markets, particularly those with current account deficits or political troubles – or a combination of the two.

“I think there is a lack of positive triggers right now, and there is a growing concern about what happens. It’s no 1998 … we have a very cautious stance on all emerging market equities and currencies at the moment,” said Hans Peterson, global head of investment strategy at SEB Private Banking.

“If you have weak fundamentals and liquidity is a little bit tighter that always shows, but it’s the weak fundamentals that are really the issue, not liquidity.”

With Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and India all holding elections this year, policymakers are likely to be wary of hiking rates too much to avoid damaging economic growth.

The vulnerabilities in the emerging world were noted by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand when it decided to hold off on raising interest rates on Thursday.

The MSCI All-Country World share index .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.4 percent to 391.22 points, hitting its lowest levels since early November and taking its losses for January so far to 4.2 percent – on track for its worst month in 1-1/2 years.

The losses were biggest in emerging markets, whose broad benchmark fell 0.8 percent .MSCIEF.

Underscoring the problems there, the HSBC PMI showed that Chinese manufacturing slipped to a six-month low for January, confirming a flash estimate released last week.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 fell 0.3 percent .FTEU3, also pressured by forecast-missing numbers from Nordic telecom operator TeliaSonera (TLSN.ST) and spirits giant Diageo (DGE.L), which led the fallers.

Some of the money leaving equities appeared to find its way into the developed world’s government bond market. German Bund futures rose 18 ticks to 143.18, while German 10-year yields fell to their lowest in nearly six months.

The Fed’s stimulus reduction also lent some support to the dollar, which gained 0.3 percent against a basket of major currencies .DXY, and analysts forecast more strength to come.

“Investors should expect further USD gains today as sentiment across emerging markets deteriorates,” analysts at Credit Agricole CIB said in a note.

“Clearly contrasting against the investor confidence seen during Q3/Q4 2013, this fragility suggests ample room remains for emerging market position-squaring from medium- and longer-term accounts. Indeed such position-squaring could provide significant benefit to safe-haven currencies like USD and JPY in the week ahead.”

A stronger dollar and weaker emerging market currencies weighed on metals prices on concerns that those resources will become more expensive for emerging market consumers.

London copper slipped to a near two-month low and gold edged lower, also hit by the weak data from China.

Oil however, steadied, with Brent holding around $108 a barrel, as cold weather across the northern Hemisphere boosted demand.


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