EMERGING MARKETS-Emerging market stocks gain, spurred by China
By Asher Levine and Sujata Rao
RIO DE JANEIRO/LONDON Feb 12 (Reuters) - Emerging market stocks rose to three-week highs on Wednesday, boosted by stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data but Brazilan stocks dipped on profit-taking after recent gains.
China's January exports and imports easily beat forecasts, data showed Wednesday, easing concerns over a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. China is a key purchaser of raw materials such as iron-ore, soybeans and copper from other developing markets.
"Surprisingly strong export growth from China last month has raised hopes of a broader recovery in emerging market exports," Capital Economic wrote in an investor note.
Emerging market equities advanced nearly 1 percent , with Chilean stocks notching their seventh straight gain and Russian shares up 0.8 percent.
Mexico's IPC index advanced 0.2 percent, boosted by telecommunications firm America Movil, which beat fourth-quarter profit estimates late Tuesday.
The country's peso was little changed ahead of the central bank's inflation report, due later in the day.
"As much as we like the Mexican story, data has been coming very soft and calls into question the central bank's scenario for a stronger recovery this year," Brown Brothers Harriman strategists wrote on Wednesday.
Brazilian shares, which tend to track the outlook for Chinese growth, retreated 0.3 percent, turning lower after a 1.6 percent rally in the previous session.
Brazilian stocks advanced in the three of the four past sessions. But underlying confidence in the local market has remained low due to a weak outlook for domestic economic growth, with gains typically short-lived.
The Brazilian currency, the real, was also 0.3 percent lower against the dollar.
Earlier in Asia, the Korean won led currency gains, rising to one-month highs, while the Thai baht strengthened 0.6 percent.
Ilan Solot, emerging markets strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in London said markets were "tired of selling".
Emerging stocks fell 6.6 percent in January and most emerging currencies are in the red against the euro and dollar.
"There has been a significant build-up of short positions and at any sign of improvement you will see a short-covering type of rally," Solot said.
In Europe, Hungary's forint gave up early gains to trade slightly weaker against the dollar, while the Budapest stock market dropped over 1 percent, led by a fall in Hungary's biggest bank, OTP.
The losses come after the European Court of Justice issued a legal opinion that could clear the way for Hungarian courts to rule on whether some aspects of the foreign currency loans that banks issued locally breached the law.
The government has pledged new steps to help households who are burdened with Swiss franc and euro mortgages though its earlier measures saddled the banking sector with big losses.
In the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan's tenge traded nearly flat, a day after the central bank devalued it by 19 percent to the mid-point against the dollar.
The Ukrainian hryvnia fell 0.5 percent and the rouble eased a touch . Russia's central bank again lowered the corridor in which the currency trades, having shifted it almost 30 times this year.
Further depreciation pressure is likely on the currency which analysts say looks uncompetitively valued against trade partners Russia and Kazakhstan and is weighed down by political turmoil and the suspension of a $15 billion loan from Russia.
"The risk of sharp currency losses is largest in Ukraine, even in an scenario where the authorities return to the deal with Russia," Unicredit analysts told clients.
They also expect the rouble to fall, but at a slower pace.
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