EMERGING MARKETS-Lira down after inflation data; EM stocks retreat from 3-month highs

* Turkish inflation rises less than expected

* Lira falls but well off record lows

* Russian economic forum set to begin on Thursday

* Israel’s shekel dips 0.3%

June 3 (Reuters) - Turkey’s lira fell on Thursday as May inflation came in less than expected, leaving investors guessing about the central bank’s next move, while other emerging market currencies made small moves ahead of U.S. jobs data.

The South African rand, Chinese yuan, Mexican peso, and the Russian rouble were all softer around 0.1% to 0.3%, reflecting a similar move higher in the U.S. dollar ahead of non-farm payroll data on Friday.

Turkey’s May inflation was 16.59%, against a Reuters poll prediction of 17.25% and contrary to the central bank’s prediction for price accelerations to plateau in April.

The lira extended losses, losing up to 0.6% before retracing some losses, though staying well away from Wednesday’s record low.

The central bank will hold rates in this month’s meeting to convince markets of their prudency, pushing possible rate cuts as demanded by President Tayyip Erdogan to July or August, said Danske Bank’s chief analyst Jakob Christensen.

Increasing prices of oil, a significant import for Turkey, further impacted by rising inflation, and the recent tick-up in talks about tightening by the U.S. Federal Reserve should see investors remaining cautious about the lira, he added.

Russia’s PMI data showed services sector activity hit a nine-month peak in May as domestic demand improved. Trader focus will be on Russia’s economic forum at St Petersburg, with the main events scheduled to take place later on Thursday and Friday.

The meeting will focus on Russia’s political standoff with the West, economic recovery, COVID-19 vaccines and green energy, among other issues.

Investors will be looking for comments on Russia’s path to economic recovery and emergence from the COVID-19 crisis, more than the mention of sanctions as Russia has the means to recover from those imposed so far, Christensen said.

Emerging stocks fell 0.2% after briefly touching a fresh three-month high in early trading, with some Asian bourses in for a choppy session and China blue-chips down 0.6%.

Emerging debt spreads hover at the tightest level since the pandemic started.

Israel’s shekel fell 0.3%, broadly in line with other EM currencies, after an opposition leader moved closer to unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he officially told the country’s president that he had reached agreements with political allies to form a new government.

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For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)