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EMERGING MARKETS-Turkish lira leads EMEA losses on economic woes

* EMEA, Asia FX fall amid U.S. inflation jitters

* Turkish inflation concerns rise ahead of rate decision

* MSCI EM stocks index set for worst day since late-March

April 12 (Reuters) - The Turkish lira weakened on Monday as investor concerns grew over deteriorating economic conditions in the country, while stocks in emerging market suffered their worst drop in nearly three weeks as the corporate earnings season loomed.

The lira weakened about 0.7%, leading losses across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) after data showed a higher-than-expected Turkish current account deficit in February, while the unemployment rate also rose.

Inflation expectations for the country have jumped in recent weeks on doubts over whether the central bank will keep policy tight, amid constant pressure from the government to reduce interest rates.

The central bank is expected to make a decision on interest rates later this week, with the lira trading consistently lower after the ouster of four central bank heads in two years cast doubts over its credibility.

“It does not really matter whether the base rate is cut immediately, a few months later, or not at all,” analysts at Commerzbank said.

“As long as there is no credible prospect of the Central Bank of Turkey fully and freely hiking interest rates in order to bring inflation rapidly back towards target, the outlook for the lira remains the same.”

Other emerging market currencies retreated as the focus turned to U.S. inflation data due on Tuesday. While EM currencies had marked small gains last week due to weakness in the dollar and Treasury yields, investors feared that a bigger-than-expected spike in inflation could spark another rally in the greenback.

In EMEA, South Africa’s rand weakened 0.4%, while Russia’s rouble was down 0.5%. Central European currencies also fell to the dollar and the euro, after marking strong gains last week.

Most EM currencies are trading lower this year amid growing bets that U.S. economic growth will ramp up quickly and spur policy tightening by the Federal Reserve, with inflation being one of the key factors to watch.

The MSCI’s index of emerging market stocks tumbled 1.2% on Monday ahead of the first-quarter earnings season, which is expected to shed light on whether corporates have been able to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Latin America, Ecuadorean banker Guillermo Lasso pulled off a surprise win in Sunday’s presidential runoff against socialist economist Andres Arauz, putting the country on track to maintain open market policies.

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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For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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