EM assets up on Fed boost; PepsiCo-Pioneer deal lifts S.Africa shares

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BENGALURU (July 19): Emerging market shares rose on Friday and currencies touched a four-month high after comments from a top Federal Reserve official reinforced expectations of a US interest rate cut this month, stoking demand for riskier assets.

New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said on Thursday that policymakers could not wait for economic disaster to hit before adding stimulus.

MSCI's index for emerging market shares rose 0.8%, on track to end the week higher with China, Hong Kong and South Korean stocks leading gains.

Shares in Johannesburg climbed 1% to a two-week high as Pioneer Food Group jumped nearly 30% after US-based beverage and snack maker PepsiCo said it planned to acquire the South African company for around US$1.7 billion.

The rand was flat while bond yields fell after South Africa's central bank cut its main lending rate on Thursday, in a widely expected move to counter floundering economic growth, and revised its forecasts on inflation and the economy.

"In our view, those revisions do not change a medium-term outlook on the South African economy, as well as on inflation that is expected to increase beyond the middle of the targeted range in 2020," analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.

Indian stocks were the prominent laggards, falling 1% as a proposed tax on foreign portfolio investors who fail to structure themselves as companies rather than trusts, soured the mood for sectors dependent on overseas funding.

Emerging market currencies, which typically gain on dovish Fed comments, rose to their highest levels since March 21. China's yuan and Indonesia's rupiah stood out for their gains.

The Turkish lira inched 0.2% lower but avoided a steep sell-off in the wake of Turkey being ousted from the US F-35 programme this week as it purchased Russian air defence systems.

US lawmakers and President Donald Trump are yet to come to an agreement on whether Washington would impose sanctions on Ankara for its action.