(Corrects milestone in paragraph 2 to highest since January 2018)
* Rand extends gains after upbeat GDP data
* Lira struggles as COVID deaths hit record highs
Dec 9 (Reuters) – Emerging market equities surged past highs last reached in 2018 on Wednesday, swept up in a global rally on U.S. stimulus hopes and positive COVID-19 vaccine updates, while the South African rand hit a 42-week high following upbeat economic data.
The MSCI’s benchmark EM equities index, which spans 27 countries, rose 0.3% to hit its highest since January 2018.
Stock markets in South Korea, India and Taiwan all notched all-time highs, while Russia’s MOEX neared its life-high.
Wall Street stocks made new highs overnight on seeming progress on U.S. stimulus talks, while Britain became the first Western nation to begin a wide vaccination campaign.
The brighter global mood also supported riskier EM currencies. South Africa’s rand hit a 10-month high, extending gains after data on Tuesday showed a stronger-than-expected economic rebound for in the third quarter.
Further, headline consumer price inflation slowed to 3.2% in November from 3.3% in October, only adding to expectations of further monetary policy easing by the central bank, which kept its main lending rate on hold at 3.5% last month.
“The rand has done exceptionally well after the initial selloff,” said Cristian Maggio, head of emerging market strategy at TD Securities.
“Maybe the central bank cuts rates again and weakens the carry trade, that could be a reason for a pullback. Except for that, we should be expecting a confirmation of the strength.”
Against a weaker dollar, the Russian rouble firmed, but the Turkish lira struggled as the country reported record daily coronavirus deaths on Tuesday.
The Hungarian forint reversed some of its recent losses against the euro ahead of the EU summit on Thursday.
Hungary and Poland gave no ground on Tuesday in a row that has blocked the European Union’s budget and economic recovery fund, but the Hungarian prime minister said he hoped the dispute could be resolved at the summit.
Investors also eyed Brazil’s central bank meeting later in the day when benchmark interest rates are expected to be left unchanged, according to a Reuters poll, as economic activity continues to heal in Latin America’s largest economy.
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
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For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see
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For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Angus MacSwan)