August 9, 2017 / 9:24 AM / 10 months ago

EMERGING MARKETS-N.Korea missile threat sparks selling across emerging markets

LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Heightening tensions between North Korea and the United States rattled emerging markets on Wednesday, pushing stocks to their biggest one-day fall in a month, while the rand weakened after South Africa's president survived a no-confidence vote.

Markets around the globe took a leg lower after North Korea said it is considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after President Donald Trump told the North that any threat to the U.S. would be met with "fire and fury".

South Korea's won recorded the biggest intraday slip in eight weeks, shedding as much as one percent against the dollar, while the cost of insuring exposure to Seoul's sovereign debt hit 14-month highs.

Korea's stock market, an emerging equity heavyweight, tumbled more than one percent and Taiwan was close on its heels. The losses dragged MSCI's emerging market index down 0.7 percent – its steepest daily decline since early July.

And despite a softer dollar, emerging currencies elsewhere mostly traded weaker as investors piled into safe havens such as the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen.

"Tensions have ratcheted up to a whole new level...the rhetoric being used is extremely harsh, so it invites confrontation," said Phoenix Kalen, a strategist at Societe Generale.

"Emerging markets are taking a hit and all of the high yielding currencies and high yielding assets are being hammered across the board - it's reflective of the poor risk sentiment out there," she said, adding it was difficult to assess how sustained the risk-off period may be.

South Africa's rand fell 0.6 percent in a second day of losses after President Jacob Zuma survived Tuesday's no-confidence motion, but was left politically wounded after some members on his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party voted with the opposition in a secret ballot.

"We are back to similar levels to right before the announcement of the secret ballot - the market had got optimistic, and now it has pulled back to those levels," Kalen said.

South African markets were shut on Wednesday for a holiday.

Kenya's shilling firmed and bond prices rose as early results from a broadly peaceful election showed President Uhuru Kenyatta in a commanding lead.

But gains could be fragile, say analysts who fear that opposition leader Raila Odinga's rejection of the results could provoke his supporters to take to the streets. Kenyan police fired teargas on Wednesday at 100 chanting supporters of Odinga.

Odinga's comments evoked memories of 2007, when an election marred by major irregularities was followed by ethnic violence that killed 1,200 people.

"Kenyatta's provisional win will soothe those investors who feared a leftist shift in economic policy," said Hasnain Malik, global head of equities research at Exotix Capital.

"The most important issues are ahead of us: Does Odinga concede peacefully? His initial rhetoric suggests there is a risk he does not."

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2017, see For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2017, see

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see) (Reporting by Karin Strohecker, additional reporting by Claire Milhench, editing by Alister Doyle)

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