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EMERGING MARKETS-Russian bonds sink as Ukraine worries mount; EM stocks hit

·3 min read

* Rising U.S. Treasury yields hit EM stocks

* Russian bonds inch closer to March 2020 lows

* Germany to hold talks with Moscow on Tuesday

* Sri Lanka repays $500 mln, plans new measures to attract forex

By Susan Mathew

Jan 18 (Reuters) - Emerging market shares fell for a fourth straight session on Tuesday, with rising U.S. Treasury yields pressuring riskier assets, while Russian and Ukraine bonds fell further on rising worries that Moscow could attack its neighbour.

With expectations rising that the U.S. Federal Reserve could deliver a hawkish message at its meeting next week, U.S. bond yields topped 1% for the first time in almost two years.

This pushed MSCI's index of emerging stocks down 0.5%, with Chinese heavyweights Alibaba and Tencent in the red. But as property and infrastructure stocks gained, mainland China indexes ended higher.

Stocks in Poland, Russia and South Africa also fell between 0.4% and 2%.

Most currencies also struggled as the dollar rose, with China's yuan retreating from 3-1/2 year highs, while South Africa's rand and Turkey's lira lost about 0.5% each.

Russia's rouble, which has been volatile recently, firmed 0.4% to 76.2 a dollar after the West said it was no longer considering cutting Russian banks off from the Swift global payments system, and instead sanctions targeting major Russian banks were being considered.

Russian bonds inched closer to their March 2020 coronavirus pandemic panic lows, while the premium to hold Ukraine bonds over safe-haven U.S. Treasuries surged past 1,000 basis points for the first time since March 2020 on Monday.

Moscow and Germany are set to hold talks on Tuesday after discussions last week with the United States and NATO yielded no de-escalation in tensions over Ukraine, as Russia continues its military build-up near the country.

JPMorgan strategists said they maintain an over-weight on the rouble on fundamental grounds, "but acknowledge that without some diffusion of the recent geopolitical tensions, conversion towards fair value would seem unlikely in the near term".

Analysts have listed several possible actions from the West on Russia, such as total sanctioning of the OFZ bond market and sanctions on Russian corporate sector and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. While that might trouble the rouble and other Russian assets, most analysts say Russia can survive those economically.

In Sri Lanka, meanwhile, new laws and fast-track measures to attract foreign exchange were being planned. A $500 million international sovereign bond that matured has been repayed the central bank said - first tranche of a total of $4.5 billion that it needs to pay back this year to avoid its first default. For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2021, see http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2021, see https://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 Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Alex Richardson)