Dec 2 (Reuters) – Russia’s rouble and Turkey’s lira led mild gains across Europe, Middle East and African currencies on Wednesday amid further progress towards a COVID-19 vaccine, while South Africa’s rand lagged ahead of a court hearing on public sector wages.
The rouble rose as much as 0.5% to the dollar, while the lira added up to 0.8%. The rand fell about 0.3%.
The MSCI’s index of emerging market currencies inched up to its highest level since April 2018.
Support for regional currencies came after the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in Britain, the first country in the world to do so.
While much of the optimism over a vaccine had already been baked into markets through November, some analysts said the approval pointed to upward pressure for most riskier assets in the near-term.
“We stick to our guns that equities and other risk-linked assets are likely to continue marching north, while safe-havens, the likes of the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen, could stay under selling interest,” said Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group.
Foreign investors poured a record $76.5 billion into emerging market portfolios in November, the Institute of International Finance said in a report on Tuesday.
Evidence of the virus’s economic impact still persisted. Turkey’s government extended short-labour pay benefits until the end of June in response to the coronavirus pandemic, while the country’s foreign trade deficit surged 155.4% in November as local production remained subdued.
South Africa’s rand underperformed ahead of a court hearing over a government wage dispute with public sector unions – a case that is expected to have major implications on government spending in the near-term.
South Africa’s government has attempted to curb rising debt levels by cutting spending.
In central Europe, Hungary’s forint rose slightly to the euro, while its peers traded flat. Investors were awaiting an interest rate decision from the Polish central bank, which is expected to hold its benchmark rate at slightly above zero.
EMEA stocks rose in tandem with broader emerging markets, with Turkish stocks leading gains. The MSCI’s index of emerging market stocks rose 0.2%, and was a few points short of a near 32-month high.
(Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Alex Richardson)