January 6, 2020 / 9:21 AM / 3 months ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Stocks extend fall as U.S.-Iran tensions flare

* EM stocks index pulls back from near 19-month highs

* Safe-haven buying weighs on EM assets

* Turkish lira steady after support from state banks

* S.Africa's rand weakens as power cuts resume

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Jan 3 (Reuters) - Stocks across emerging markets slipped for a second day on Monday as heightening tensions between the United States and Iran after the killing of a top Iranian general discouraged investors from buying risky assets.

MSCI's index for emerging markets stocks fell 1%, retreating from near 19 month highs after the killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani on Friday spurred a bout of safe-haven buying.

"The escalation of the conflict between the U.S. and Iran is leading to a rise in risk aversion in financial markets," Antje Praefcke, FX and EM analyst at Commerzbank said.

President Donald Trump warned the United States would strike back, "perhaps in a disproportionate manner," if Iran attacked any American person or target.

Emerging market assets enjoyed a bounce in the final month of 2019 helped by the cooling of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, but analysts now point to rising geopolitical uncertainties moving back to centre stage at the beginning of the year.

"Uncertain times and increased uncertainty on the financial markets might fuel a flight into safe havens, as a result the dollar might appreciate every so often," Praefcke said.

MSCI's index for emerging markets currencies dropped 0.2%, with most major currencies trading in tight ranges against the dollar. The yen and other safe-haven currencies were in demand, along with assets such as gold.

Turkey's lira steadied and dealers said state banks had sold dollars to support the currency, which came under pressure from geopolitical tensions.

The South African rand was flat as a resumption of power cuts in the country spurred concerns over domestic growth outlook.

South Africa's struggling state electricity firm Eskom said on Saturday it would cut up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of power from the national grid overnight, after a conveyor belt failure at its Medupi coal-fired power station.

Among other currencies, Hungary's forint and the Polish zloty softened slightly against the euro.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2020, see tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2020, 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 Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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