November 10, 2017 / 10:40 AM / 2 years ago

EMERGING MARKETS-U.S. tax bill doubts, Middle East tension weigh on emerging markets

LONDON, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Emerging stocks suffered and currencies were treading water on Friday as doubts over the U.S. tax reform plans weighed on equities around the globe while escalating tension across the Middle East further crimped risk appetite.

MSCI’s emerging market index slipped 0.3 percent with bourses across much of Asia , Russia , Turkey and central Europe nursing losses.

Yet China mainland stocks defied the wider sell-off with blue chips’ index up nearly 1 percent on the day and 3 percent on the week, bolstered by solid economic data and encouraged by Beijing’s move to lift foreign ownership limits on financial firms.

The mood was glum following rising uncertainty about U.S. tax reforms after Senate Republicans unveiled a plan that differed from the House of Representatives’ version in several areas.

Adding to the woes were rising tensions in the Middle East in the wake of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s resignation during a visit to Saudi Arabia nearly a week ago, plunging Beirut into a deepening political crisis.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have warned their citizens against travel to Lebanon. Lebanese officials have said they believes Hariri is being held in Saudi Arabia.

“All wait for Saudi Arabia’s next move,” said Simon Quijano-Evans, emerging markets strategist at Legal & General Investment Management.

“Emerging markets otherwise focused on the U.S. Senate’s own version of a tax bill that apparently delays a corporate tax cut to January 2019.”

Lebanon dollar bonds took another hit, with many issues at multi-year or record lows while both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia both saw the cost to insure exposure to their sovereign debt rising.

Currencies were treading water or trading weaker despite the dollar being on track for a weekly fall.

South Africa’s rand - down 0.6 percent on the day - and Russia’s rouble are both on track for a fourth straight week in the red.

The rand was also suffering from comments by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday, raising concerns about higher spending on education that could add strain on stretched public finances while central bank governor Lesetja Kganyago warned the economy faced major challenges.

Turkey’s lira is flat on the day, but on track to eek out a small weekly gain, snapping an eight-week losing streak.

Meanwhile investors in cash-strapped OPEC nation Venezuela are expecting to hear from finance industry association ISDA if Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA is in default because of a delayed bond payment.

The announcement could come ahead of a meeting called by President Nicolas Maduro who urged bondholders to come to Caracas on Monday and meet for debt restructuring talks with officials from the country struggling under a failing socialist economic system and Washington sanctions.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2017, see For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2017, see

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see) (Reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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