Wall Street. Picture: BLOOMBERG/MICHAEL NAGLE
Wall Street. Picture: BLOOMBERG/MICHAEL NAGLE

Emerging markets stock rose on Thursday as positive sentiment from Wall Street’s spectacular rise overnight spilled over, but gains were tempered by China stocks marking their lowest close in four years.

The three major indices on Wall Street closed between 4.96% and 5.84% higher on Wednesday after a report that holiday sales were the strongest in years allayed some concerns about the health of the economy.

Taking cues, most emerging stock markets rose, with Taiwan shares leading gains in Asia with a 1.7% rise, while indexes in Russia and Turkey rose 1% on average.

Some relief also came as a top White House Council of Economic Advisers said US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell’s job was not in jeopardy. His comments came after President Donald Trump described the Fed as the “only problem” in the US economy.

“The market is somewhat upbeat to hear Jerome Powell will not be relieved of his duties, as that would have been a deep negative,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone.

The MSCI index of emerging market shares rose 0.2% to its highest in a week. But the index trimmed gains as mainland China and Hong Kong shares reversed course and closed sharply lower.

Shares of Sinopec weighed on the Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong indices after Reuters reported that the state-owned oil giant had suspended two top executives at its trading arm. The Shanghai index marked its lowest close since November 2014.

Among emerging market currencies, the South Korean won and the Chinese yuan firmed more than 0.3% each, while the rand climbed 0.2% against a weaker dollar.

Most others declined, with oil exporter Russia’s rouble weakening 0.6% as oil prices came off their 8% rise in the previous session.

“The muted reaction is due to the lingering uncertainty as to whether we are about to see the last of the volatility introduced by politics in Washington,” Sim Moh Siong, FX strategist at Bank of Singapore said.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government, which is expected to remain in place into January, and Trump’s repeated attacks on the Fed have left investors jittery over the past few sessions.

“Market is still quite wary in terms of US policy uncertainty so unless we see a change in style of leadership, it will keep investors on the sidelines,” Sim added. 

— Reuters