* Emerging stocks have fallen more than 12% in 2018
* Indian rupee hits weakest on record against dollar
* Russia’s rouble crashes through 70 to the dollar
By Karin Strohecker
LONDON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Fears over a rapid escalation of trade wars hit emerging markets on Monday, sending stocks to a fresh 2018 low and hurting major currencies with India’s rupee tumbling to record lows and Russia’s rouble at its weakest in two years.
MSCI’s emerging market equity index slipped as much as 1 percent to hit its weakest level since July 2017 with markets in Asia chalking up hefty losses after U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Friday he was ready to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports to the United States. Beijing warned it would retaliate.
Chinese mainland stocks ended as much as 1.5 percent lower with shares in suppliers to Apple Inc. dropping after Trump tweeted on Saturday that Apple Inc should make products in the United States if it wanted to avoid tariffs on Chinese imports. Bourses in export heavyweights such as Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as India’s BSE index nearly matches those declines.
Emerging currencies painted a similar downbeat picture, with the EM currency index falling around 0.5 percent and edging back towards a 17 month low hit last week.
“Emerging economies have borne the brunt of the market stress since the start of the year,” Didier Saint-Georges, managing director at French asset manager Carmignac wrote in a note to clients.
“In drying up the global flow of dollars, the Fed has weakened the entire EM asset class and literally wrecked those countries most reliant on dollar financing. The trade standoff initiated by the Trump administration thus amounts to a double whammy, with contagion doing the rest of the damage.”
Facing a widening emerging market selloff, India’s rupee plumbed a fresh record low, with nationwide protests adding to the pressure while an official at the country’s finance ministry pledged the government would take measure to stem the slide in the currency.
With a general election less than nine months away, demonstrations against record high petrol and diesel prices shut down businesses, government offices and schools in many parts of India while in some places protesters blocked trains and roads and vandalised vehicles.
Russia’s rouble weakened beyond 70 versus the dollar for the first time since March 2016 before recovering its losses, buckling under pressure from uncertainty about U.S. sanctions and concern ahead of a central bank meeting on Friday.
Governor Elvira Nabiullina said rates could stay on hold or go higher. But Kremlin economic aide Andrei Belousov said a rate increase would be “highly undesirable”, echoing comments by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev who stated late last week that lending rates should be lower.
Turkey’s lira also slipped around 0.5 percent with data out earlier in the day showing the economy had grown 5.2 percent in the second quarter before an expected slowdown in the second half of the year.
Markets are awaiting the outcome of a central bank meeting on Thursday, where policy makers are expected to finally hike interest rates, though some analysts have voiced concern that with the country in a full-blown currency crisis and inflation near 18 percent, it may come too late to avert a hard landing.
Meanwhile Turkey’s finance minister Berat Albayrak also said a recent fluctuation in markets showed the country required a more decisive fight against inflation and current account deficit.
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