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EMERGING MARKETS-Fed signal hits EM FX; lira off lows as c.bank holds rates

* Turkey c.bank more hawkish than previous meeting - analyst

* EM FX index set for worst session in over 1 year

* EM stocks index at three-week low (Updates after Turkey central bank decision)

June 17 (Reuters) - The lira clawed back some early losses on Thursday after Turkey’s central bank held interest rates steady, while an index of emerging market currencies headed for its worst day in over a year slammed by a surprisingly hawkish U.S. Federal Reserve.

The lira briefly erased almost all of its losses on relief that the central bank, under constant pressure from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan to ease policy, acknowledged inflation pressures stemming from the lira’s weakness.

But the central bank’s statement suggested it was inching towards a rate cut later this year, pushing the lira down again. .

The statement said the current tight monetary policy stance will be maintained decisively until the significant fall in the April inflation report’s forecast path is achieved.

TD Securities’ head of EM strategy, Cristian Maggio, noted the addition of the word “decisively”, saying it had vanished from recent monetary policy committee statements.

“So if one were to find nuances in this statement, one has to conclude that this statement is more hawkish than the previous one.”

As higher U.S. interest rates tend to dull the appeal of emerging market assets, investors will want to see whether central banks in the developing world will act to preserve their own currencies’ yield premium against the dollar.

Turkey followed Indonesia’s decision earlier in the day to hold rates steady, which pushed the rupiah 0.8% lower. Brazil’s real dipped, in line with broader EM peers, after Wednesday’s expected 75 basis-point interest rate hike.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the U.S. Fed said it expects to start raising interest rates in 2023, a year earlier than previously forecast, acknowledging in a way that the inflation could be lasting rather than transitory.

Debt spreads on the EM bond index tightened to 326 basis points – levels last seen in February 2020, while MSCI’s index of EM currencies dropped nearly 1%, its biggest daily decline since the pandemic roiled markets in March 2020.

In equity markets, MSCI's emerging stock index slumped 0.6%, extending losses to a fourth straight session and hitting three-week lows, though a positive end for Chinese stocks, capped index losses. 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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Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Sujata Rao, Shailesh Kuber and Amy Caren Daniel

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