EMERGING MARKETS-EMEA FX slips on mixed Fed signals, stocks inch higher

* CZK flat after strong rally on Wednesday

* MSCI EM stocks index inches up, FX flat

* Czech, Hungarian c.banks kick off rate hike cycles

June 24 (Reuters) – Most emerging market currencies fell on Thursday as mixed signals from the U.S. Federal Reserve kept investors on edge about when the bank would begin unwinding its massive stimulus program.

The MSCI’s index of EM currencies was flat, while most currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) retreated as the dollar hovered below 11-week highs.

Turkey’s lira dropped about 0.4%, while South Africa’s rand shed 0.5%. Investors were also watching for producer prices data from Africa’s most industrialized economy, due later in the day.

Russia’s rouble rose 0.2%, helped by rising oil prices.

EM stocks rose slightly, with the MSCI’s index adding about 0.2%, tracking overnight gains on Wall Street. Relative stability in equities has also made them more attractive in comparison to foreign exchange, particularly in emerging markets.

Comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell earlier this week had suggested that a recent spike in inflation would be transitory, and had sparked a small rally in emerging markets.

But overnight, two Fed officials said that a period of high inflation in the United States could last longer than anticipated, which supported the dollar.

Their comments, combined with the Fed’s unexpectedly hawkish tilt last week, saw investors fretting over the timeline of the Fed’s eventual policy tightening.

“Bearing in mind that the Fed has already signalled that it is considering raising interest rates in 2023, with some officials even expressing desire for this to happen next year, we prefer to maintain a cautious stance with regards to the broader market,” Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group wrote in a note.

Focus was also on the Bank of England’s rate-setting meeting later in the day, for any more cues on tightening policy in the developed world, given a rise in inflation this year.

In central Europe, the Czech crown was flat to the euro after marking its best day in more than two months on Wednesday, as the Czech central bank kicked off a rate hiking cycle.

The Czech bank is the second central European bank to hike rates this week, after Hungary hiked rates on Tuesday to combat growing price pressures in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The forint rose 0.2% to the euro.

An interest rate decision in Mexico is also due later in the day, with the bank widely expected to hold. But its forecast on economic conditions will be closely watched. For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2021, see tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2021, see tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX

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