January 10, 2020 / 9:26 AM / 10 days ago

EMERGING MARKETS-EM stocks firm as focus shifts to growth in 2020; rand slips on weak data

* EM stocks hover near 19-month highs

* Fading fears of Middle East war brighten global sentiment

* Tech stocks rally as investors count on 2020 growth

* S.African rand dips on slump in manufacturing output

By Sagarika Jaisinghani and Lisa Pauline Mattackal

Jan 10 (Reuters) - Emerging market stocks hovered near 19-month highs on Friday as investor attention turned to economic growth in 2020 after the easing of geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran, while South Africa’s rand fell on disappointing data.

An index of emerging market stocks rose about 0.2%, tracking a rally in global equities. The index is on course to end higher for the sixth week in a row, a winning streak last seen in June 2019.

The tech-heavy South Korean index ended the day nearly 1% higher as a report about Apple Inc’s strong December iPhone sales in China boosted shares of chipmakers in Asia.

The broader optimism also sent tech stocks in the developing world to a record high.

“A modest recovery going on in China and other parts of the world is the early ‘lights at the end of the tunnel’ and that’s quite favourable for emerging markets,” said Jakob Christensen, chief analyst, head of EM research at Danske Bank.

World stocks have gained this week after being briefly spooked by escalating tensions after the United States killed a top Iranian general in a drone strike, prompting retaliation by Iran in the form of missile attacks on Iraqi bases where the United States has forces.

But after both countries defused fears of aall-out war by signalling no further military action, investors have again grown hopeful about faster global growth this year, supported by loose monetary policy by some of the world’s most influential central banks.

“What is helping emerging markets now is a combination of the monetary easing that they’ve implemented starting to feed through to the economy and the reduction in the uncertainty from the trade war between China and the United States,” said Christensen.

All eyes will now be on crucial U.S. jobs data due later in the day for clues on a potential cooling in the labour market.

In Turkey, latest figures showed the unemployment rate fell to 13.4% in the September-November period from 13.8% a month earlier. However, the lira eased against a steady dollar, tracking a wider dip in emerging market currencies .

The South African rand slipped for the second straight session as data showed manufacturing output fell 3.6% year-on-year in November after contracting by 0.8% in October.

The country has grappled with prolonged power cuts as state utility Eskom struggles with problems at its coal-fired power stations.

Currencies in central and eastern European economies were trading flat versus the euro.

A new Reuters poll showed the Czech crown’s strong start in 2020 is likely to reverse in the next month, while the Hungarian forint will creep back toward record lows this year on slowing economic growth.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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