December 7, 2020

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley said on Monday it was taking “a few chips off the table” after a thundering rally in emerging markets over the last month.

The bank said it was sticking to its core view that developing economy currencies and select countries’ bonds would continue to climb, but was dialling back its bullish bets after November’s surge.

That included closing long positions on South Africa’s rand, which has surged 13% since June, tightening stop-losses on Latin American currencies like Brazil’s real and Mexico’s and Colombia’s pesos, and chopping back a bunch of bond bets including in Egypt and Ukraine.

“We see the rally in EM (emerging market) currencies being front-loaded into year-end and 1Q21, but then petering out,” Morgan Stanley’s analysts said. “We are also neutral on EM credit, where we think that spreads are close to bottoming out.”

They said they were watching China’s credit cycle particularly closely.

“China could be the first among the major economies to start applying the brakes next year” in terms of stimulus, Morgan Stanley added, “and, when it does, markets will likely pay attention.”

The currencies of commodity-producing countries are likely to suffer as they generally rally as China’s credit impulse intensifies and depreciate as it wanes.

A more encouraging signal could be an expected increase of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) that is likely, in dollar terms, to be worth between $500 billion to over $1 trillion.

An SDR can be thought of as a credit token issued by the IMF to countries that can then exchange it for hard currency.

An increase would be supportive to emerging markets, in part because it would signal greater international co-operation, and could help debt-strained countries such as Sri Lanka, Kenya, Argentina, Bahrain, Ecuador, Ghana and Pakistan.

On average, a $500 billion equivalent increase would help boost foreign exchange reserves 21%-22% in Bahrain and Ecuador and more than 10% in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Ghana.

“It could (also) increase expectations of further financial aid if required.” Morgan Stanley said.

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)

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