April 1, 2015 / 9:32 AM / 4 years ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Equities gain as China data less bad than feared

LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) - Emerging stocks strengthened on Wednesday after surveys of Chinese factory and services activity came out at the top end of forecasts, albeit indicating stubborn weakness in the economy.

Three separate surveys showed Chinese companies shed jobs last month as they struggled with soft demand, suggesting that economic growth may have slipped below 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

However, the numbers were better than many had expected and Chinese stocks rose, with the Shanghai market advancing 1.7 percent. In broader markets, the MSCI Emerging equities index rose 0.2 percent to its highest level in a week.

“The numbers were weak but they performed reasonably well and helped lift both equity markets and currencies, which are riding on positive sentiment,” said Per Hammarlund, emerging markets strategist at SEB.

Russian manufacturing activity shrank of the fourth straight month in March, however, according to the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index, which combined with pressure from a weak oil market drove the rouble down 0.4 percent against the dollar.

“This is the first indication that numbers from Russia are really consolidating downwards. It’s been a mixed picture and difficult to interpret so far, but if you ever were hesitant about what was happening to the Russian economy, this is a clear signal that it will be a recession this year,” Hammarlund said.

Elsewhere, Nigerian dollar government and bank bonds clocked a second day of gains, with sovereign issues hitting the highest levels since mid-December after opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in a presidential election.

Nigeria’s 2018 issue rose 0.875 cents to 99.5 cents in the dollar while the 2021 and 2023 issues both gained 1 cent to change hands at 104.00 cents and 102.00 cents respectively .

Turkish PMI numbers showed factory activity fell to a six-year low in March, driving the lira down 0.2 percent against the dollar.

In contrast, eastern European assets were higher, enjoying a lift from strong German manufacturing PMI which showed activity picking up at its fastest pace in almost a year.

Hungary’s forint was 0.5 percent up against the euro while Poland’s zloty advanced 0.2 percent.

Stocks gained across the region, with Prague equities gaining 0.4 percent and Budapest rising 0.5 percent.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/jus35t

For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/weh36s

For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging Europe performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/jun28s

For GRAPHIC on MSCI frontier index performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/zyh97s

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see ) (Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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