October 17, 2018 / 9:15 AM / a month ago

EMERGING MARKETS-U.S. earnings brighten mood for emerging stocks, FX subdued

* U.S. earnings boost risk appetite

* EM currencies most undervalued ever - BAML

* S. Africa retail sales data eyed

By Sruthi Shankar and Aaron Saldanha

Oct 17 (Reuters) - Emerging market stocks hit one-week highs on Wednesday as a strong start to the U.S. corporate earnings season encouraged investors globally to take on more risk after a sell-off last week.

A grind higher for the dollar kept the MSCI index of major emerging currencies under pressure with South Africa’s rand near a two-week low and the rouble and Turkish lira struggling to hold on to early gains.

But stock markets in Korea, China and Turkey - all hit by this year’s sell-off of riskier emerging market assets - gained ground after the worst two weeks since February for the sector as a whole.

“Risk has come back into markets, and the bulls have wrestled back control,” said Chris Weston, head of research with Australian foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone. “We can see the relief playing through in Asia. China found good buyers.”

Emerging market currencies have also sunk this year, led by Turkey’s lira, as rising U.S. interest rates pulled capital back into the dollar and worries about global growth and trade unnerved investors in the developing world.

The U.S. Federal Reserve issues its September meeting minutes later on Wednesday and a bullish outlook from the U.S. central bank on the economy that ignores signs of tension on financial markets is likely to impinge further on emerging markets.

China’s yuan edged lower in offshore trade in spite of the People’s Bank setting a stronger midpoint at the daily fixing.

Koon Chow, a strategist at UBP, argued that any further weakness in emerging bond markets was likely to focus on higher-rated bonds with yields closer to U.S. Treasuries.

“EM currencies are cheap, there is a lot of bad news baked in. Those will be insensitive (to the minutes),” he said.

“The high rated stuff which have super low yields like Central Europe, bits of Asia, where yields are maybe 1.5 percent or 1 percent above U.S. treasuries, will be sensitive.”

A survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch showed a record number of investors said emerging market currencies are undervalued - the cheapest valuation since the survey began.

The Turkish lira dipped a day after data showed industrial production grew at its slowest pace in almost two years in August, reinforcing concerns about a sharp slowdown in the economy.

A Reuters poll showed Turkish economic growth was expected to fall short of sharply lowered government forecasts this year and next, with a recession now likely in the coming six months.

Still, the Turkish treasury said it had sold $2 billion of the 5-year Eurobond at a yield of 7.5 percent with demand exceeding $6 billion - pointing to a recovery in investors’ confidence in the country.

South Africa’s rand weakened for the first time in five days as investors awaited retail sales for clues on the economy’s health, especially after it unexpectedly tipped into recession in the second quarter.

Ratings agency Moody’s said on Tuesday that it expected new South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to keep the government’s broad policies intact in the medium-term budget speech due next week.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2018, see tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2018, 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 Sruthi Shankar and Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; editing by David Stamp)

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