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EMERGING MARKETS-Stocks approach record highs, EMEA FX retreats

* Turkish, Russian and South African stocks at record high

* South Africa’s rand underperforms peers this week

* EM stocks have outperformed U.S. peers since late last-year

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Emerging market stocks neared a record high on Friday as hopes of economic recovery and loose monetary policy lifted sentiment, while most currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa fell against a recovering dollar.

The MSCI’s index of emerging market (EM) stocks rose 1.4% to a 13-year peak, trading a few points shy of a record high, with Turkish, Russian and South African bourses hitting record peaks.

Progress in coronavirus vaccines has helped MSCI’s EM index rally 24% since October, well above U.S. equities, with the prospect of favourable U.S. trade policies under a new administration and record-low interest rates also lending support.

In comparison, the S&P 500 benchmark is up about 13% over the same period.

The Democrats’ taking of the U.S. Senate this week also spurred capital flows into assets outside the United States, as the possibility of increased fiscal spending and corporate taxes took some sheen off U.S. risk assets.

“Investors are getting more comfortable wading further out into risk-on waters, considering that the spillover from last year’s downside risks has subsided, including Brexit concerns and the U.S. election cycle,” Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM wrote in a note.

“Now, investors are gravitating towards the increased likelihood of more incoming U.S. fiscal stimulus in light of the Democrats’ sweep of the Georgia Senate runoffs.”

But foreign exchange markets, particularly those in Europe, the Middle East and Africa remained sensitive to coronavirus-related ructions, as well as some mild dollar strength.

Turkey’s lira dropped 1.1% from a 4-1/2 month high as the central bank’s net international reserves fell to their lowest in nearly two decades.

The central bank bled out its reserves last year to protect the lira from pandemic-led disruptions, although the currency began to recover after the bank embarked on a steep rate-hiking spree towards the end of 2020.

South Africa’s rand edged up to the dollar after plunging 2.5% in the prior session, even as spiking coronavirus cases and concerns over local debt continued to weigh on sentiment.

The currency was set to largely underperform its peers for the week with a 5.2% loss, its worst week since April 2020.

But news that the country had secured some doses of coronavirus vaccines gave investors some comfort.

Central European currencies retreated to the euro, while Polish and Hungarian equities hit a more than 10-month high.

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

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.

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