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EMERGING MARKETS-Rand on edge before Zuma speech; other emerging markets firm
February 9, 2017 / 10:37 AM / in 6 months

EMERGING MARKETS-Rand on edge before Zuma speech; other emerging markets firm

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LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Emerging stocks flirted with new five-month highs on Thursday and currencies mostly firmed versus a tepid dollar, except for the South African rand which fell before the president's annual state of the nation address.

MSCI's emerging equity benchmark gained 0.4 percent, lifted by solid gains in China and elsewhere in Asia while bourses in South Africa and Turkey rose around 0.5 percent.

The rand weakened as much as 0.5 percent against the dollar at one point ahead of President Jacob Zuma's annual speech where he is expected to outline government plans to improve the economy and could also announce a cabinet reshuffle.

"Investors in emerging markets overall are still cautiously optimistic," said Paul Fage, senior emerging markets strategist at TD Securities.

"The rand is the biggest mover today ... the one person the market has their eye on is what happens to finance minister (Pravin) Gordhan and I can't believe Zuma would be crazy enough to get rid of him, even if there is no love lost between the two," he said.

Zuma has downplayed the prospect of a significant reshuffle but investors remain nervous given the importance of reform to lift the country's sluggish growth rate and avert ratings downgrade to sub-investment grade.

Uday Patnaik, head of emerging debt at Legal & General noted a potential improvement in growth prospects this year. But he remains neutral on the credit, adding: "This Zuma issue, we don't know what he wants to do, there is still a chance they get junked in summer and it depends on what he does."

Mexico's peso also booked losses ahead of a central bank meeting which may raise interest rates by 50 basis points to 6.25 percent to stem accelerating inflation fanned by currency falls and a gasoline price hike.

However, Russia's rouble, buoyed by higher oil prices , strengthened 0.3 percent against the dollar, Turkey's lira struggled 0.1 percent higher and most Asian currencies also firmed.

In central Europe, Romania's leu edged lower but was set for its biggest weekly gain in a year despite hundreds of thousands of Romanians taking to the street to protest a government decree to decriminalize some graft offences.

"We don't think this will result in a full blown political crisis...but the stand-off between the government and the protesters will go on for the time being," said Andreas Schwabe, senior economist at Raiffeisen Bank International in Vienna.

Schwab said overly optimistic economic growth forecasts in the draft budget were more worrying.

"The budget deficit will be higher than 3 percent, maybe 3.5 percent and that would be above the threshold the European Union and the Commission wants to see," he said.

Elsewhere, Nigeria indicated it could offer around 8.5 percent for a $1 billion 15-year eurobond.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2016, see tmsnrt.rs/2e7eoml For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2016, see tmsnrt.rs/2dZbdP5

Emerging Markets Prices from Reuters Equities Latest Net Chg % Chg % Chg

on year

Morgan Stanley Emrg Mkt Indx 925.52 +3.84 +0.42 +7.34

Czech Rep 957.15 +1.94 +0.20 +3.86

Poland 2110.19 +26.54 +1.27 +8.33

Hungary 32806.27 +210.35 +0.65 +2.51

Romania 7622.15 +16.98 +0.22 +7.58

Greece 610.77 -0.09 -0.01 -5.11

Russia 1158.85 -5.80 -0.50 +0.57

South Africa 45122.14 +199.21 +0.44 +2.78

Turkey 88565.85 +316.77 +0.36 +13.34

China 3183.79 +16.81 +0.53 +2.58

India 28312.71 +22.79 +0.08 +6.33

Currencies Latest Prev Local Local

close currency currency

% change % change

in 2017

Czech Rep 27.01 27.02 +0.04 +0.00

Poland 4.31 4.31 -0.12 +2.10

Hungary 308.70 308.52 -0.06 +0.04

Romania 4.49 4.48 -0.14 +0.99

Serbia 123.77 123.80 +0.02 -0.34

Russia 58.99 59.18 +0.33 +3.85

Kazakhstan 323.67 325.01 +0.41 +3.08

Ukraine 27.00 26.91 -0.33 +0.00

South Africa 13.44 13.41 -0.26 +2.16

Kenya 103.45 103.60 +0.14 -1.04

Israel 3.74 3.75 +0.10 +2.88

Turkey 3.71 3.72 +0.22 -4.87

China 6.86 6.87 +0.12 +1.18

India 67.00 67.05 +0.07 +1.42

Brazil 3.12 3.12 +0.00 +4.37

Mexico 20.50 20.48 -0.09 +1.06

Debt Index Strip Spd Chg %Rtn Index

Sov'gn Debt EMBIG 343 -2 .06 7 58.37 1

All data taken from Reuters at 10:03 GMT. Currency percent change calculated from the daily U.S. close at 2130 GMT.

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see )

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