May 16, 2018 / 9:04 AM / 6 months ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Lira on the ropes as EM currency beating goes on

* Lira slips toward new lows, bonds, stocks stay under pressure

* Argentina peso boosted by hopes for IMF support

* EM local currency bond yields push toward 6.4 pct

* Brief dollar pause provides breather

By Marc Jones

LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - Turkey's record-low lira was among a host of heavyweight emerging market currencies pinned to the canvas on Wednesday after the dollar put on another brutal show of strength.

A rout that has taken hold in poorer economies in recent weeks was showing little sign of easing, having been compounded by another push up in global borrowing costs and some generous helpings of political strife.

The lira, which along with Argentina's peso has been at the heart of the storm, slipped toward 4.5 to the dollar and hit a new low versus the euro on worries President Tayyip Erdogan will take more control of interest rates if he wins elections next month as expected.

News that North Korea had called off high-level talks with South Korea, after Seoul had held military drills with the United States, also dented risk appetite, though the won managed to recover from an early wobble.

"The external environment is a significant factor here," said Stuart Culverhouse, chief economist at emerging market specialist Exotix.

He added news overnight that Argentina had asked the IMF for a "high access stand-by arrangement" rather just a flexible credit line -- a move that along with FX intervention had lifted the battered peso -- was "mildly positive". "But it doesn't necessarily detract from the funding pressure that some countries will come under if this (EM sell-off) continues."

Argentina's peso had bounced almost four percent, but has lost around a quarter of its value against the greenback since the start of the year. Year-on-year inflation in the country is running a dizzying 25.5 percent.

The IMF negotiations also carry political risks for President Mauricio Macri, in a country where many blame IMF-backed policies for a 2001-2002 economic meltdown.

UNDER PRESSURE

Other spots also saw some relief. South Africa's volatile rand rose as did Poland's zloty ahead of an interest rate decision there later which is expected to see them held steady.

EM credit default swap markets were mostly quieter. Lebanon dollar bonds also stabilised, having hit record lows on Tuesday in the wake of violent clashes in nearby Gaza and the U.S. decision last week to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Following recent elections, Lebanon is seen as a potential point for a proxy war between Iran and Israel. It is also the world's third most indebted nation after Japan and Greece, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent.

South Korea's won managed to shrug off the initial negative reaction to North Korea's move to cancel its high-level talks with Seoul which was the first sign of trouble in what have been fast warming ties in recent months.

More broadly though the dollar's strength had caused widespread pressure across Asia.

Thai baht and the Indonesian rupiah suffered the biggest losses with the latter left at its lowest point in over two-and-a-half years at 14,105 per dollar, a day before a key central bank policy decision.

India’s rupee fell to its lowest in well over a year too, before recovering some ground amid signs of FX intervention from authorities.

MSCI's widely tracked 24-country EM stocks index nudged down for a second day, while the average yield on EM local currency debt shuffled up to almost 6.4 percent on JP Morgan's widely-followed JP Morgan bond index..

That average yield had been at six percent at the start of April with the rise representing a significant potential rise in borrowing costs.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2018, see tmsnrt.rs/2e7eoml For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2018, see tmsnrt.rs/2dZbdP5

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see)

Editing by William Maclean

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