May 31 (Reuters) - Turkey’s lira rose almost 1% on Monday, while an index of emerging market currencies was set for the best monthly performance this year, with the South African rand looking to post its biggest monthly rise in a year.
MSCI’s index of EM currencies marked its fourth straight session of hitting a new all-time high, with volumes low owing to a market holiday in the United States and Britain.
It was up for the seventh straight session - the longest such streak since mid-February. On the month, the index was up 2%, the biggest gain since November last year.
Turkey’s lira made a strong come-back, up almost 1%, from all-time lows. Data on Monday showed Turkey’s economy grew a more-than-expected 7% year-on-year in the first quarter, as pandemic restrictions did not temper hot retail sales, exports and manufacturing.
But, given Turkey had to impose a fresh lockdown in the second quarter due to the pandemic, the first quarter is already out of date, said Commerzbank analysts.
“Still, markets do not doubt that output growth will rebound strongly again in Q3... Yet, the lira’s disastrous long-term track record of the past ten years was established against this positive growth background,” they said.
The lira is one of the worst performing EM currencies this month, down 2%. The currency is seen as more vulnerable to shocks due to policy missteps and diminished central bank credibility.
South Africa’s rand rose 0.3% on Monday, taking the monthly gain so far to about 5.5%, the best among major EM peers across geographies.
Market experts expect resource-rich South Africa’s currency to track rises in commodity prices as biggest importer China’s economy improves. But the African nation’s economic standing and rising COVID-19 cases which are forcing movement curbs have cast doubts on the performance.
Russia’s rouble was at a 2-1/2 month high with oil prices also on the rise. The currency was on course to log its best month this year.
In neighbouring Belarus, the rouble rose for the first time in four sessions.
Russia will defend Belarus and help it if the European Union imposes economic sanctions on Minsk over the grounding of a plane and arrest of a dissident blogger, the RIA news agency quoted a Russian foreign ministry official as saying.
Russian stocks lost 0.2%, underperforming a 1% rise to one-month highs for the broader EM stocks index. The decline was led by material stocks after First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov said Russian metals producers may face a demand to pay 100 billion roubles ($1.4 billion) in additional tax.
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Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan