Emerging market currencies suffer worst week since 2018 lira crisis

China’s offshore renminbi has weakened to its lowest level in five months

Philip Georgiadis in London


© AP


China’s offshore renminbi has weakened to its lowest level since November on escalated trade tensions, in the worst week for emerging market currencies since the Turkish lira crisis last summer.

Emerging market bond and equity funds have also experienced significant outflows this week, as talks between the US and China have stalled. Washington has accused Beijing of reneging on trade commitments, while China on Monday announced it would impose tariffs on $60bn of US imports starting on June 1, knocking investor sentiment further.

China’s offshore renminbi, which is widely traded in London, stood 0.1 per cent weaker at Rmb6.9400 per dollar around the start of full European trade. It has weakened nearly 3 per cent over the past two weeks as economic hostility between the world’s two largest economies have weighed on the currency.

The offshore renminbi is the “focal point” for trade tensions, analysts at ING said. “Were it to hit 7.00, alarm bells would ring even louder around the world.”




MSCI’s broad index of emerging market currencies has fallen 0.9 per cent since Friday, its biggest weekly fall since August last year when Turkey’s currency was in free fall, and fifth consecutive week of declines. It slipped 0.4 per cent to 1614.22 on Friday morning in London.

The uncertainty is also spreading through many of Asia’s trade-sensitive economies. The Singapore dollar has suffered its worst week since October, as the island state’s economy has shown signs of weakening, while the New Taiwan dollar has notched its biggest one-week declines since the same time.

Amid the risk-off sentiment, emerging market bond funds recorded their largest outflows since June 2018 in the week to May 15, according to Barclays. Passive funds largely drove the moves, but active funds also saw outflows for the first time since February.

“The resilience of inflows by institutional investors into EM bond funds may be tested over the next weeks,” the bank’s strategists said.

Overall, flows into dedicated bond and equity emerging market funds fell around $5bn, Barclays said.

Aside from the trade tensions, “the aggregate growth picture in emerging markets has not been particularly positive,” said Paul Fage senior emerging markets strategist at TD Securities, pointing to recent data including weakening industrial production.

“Probably the most important thing for emerging markets whether they can generate in aggregate a decent pick-up in growth to the developed markets and particularly the US, that has been one of the weaknesses coming into this year,” he said.

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