May 21 (Reuters) - Most emerging market currencies were muted on Friday, although they were set to notch weekly gains as fears over immediate policy tightening by the Federal Reserve were abated by mixed U.S. employment data.
The MSCI’s index of EM currencies strengthened about 0.1%, and was poised to close slightly higher this week. The dollar was headed for a weekly loss, as somewhat hawkish signals from the minutes of the Fed’s last meeting were offset by data that tempered expectations for a rise in employment growth this month.
The Fed has cited a labour market recovery as one of the key factors for it to taper stimulus measures, and the other being growing inflationary pressure. While inflation has accelerated in recent months, it is still well below the Fed’s upper limit.
Most currencies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) slightly weakened. Russia’s rouble weakened about 0.1% after hitting 73.2064, its highest in more than two months, as the country raised 1.5 billion euros ($1.83 billion) in two eurobond issues on Thursday.
The rouble was set to add about 0.4% this week, as investors welcomed dialogue between U.S. and Russian diplomats after deteriorating relations earlier this year.
Hungary’s forint weakened 0.1% to the euro, but was the best performer this week among EMEA currencies with a 2% climb against the U.S. dollar.
The currency had strengthened to a 1-1/2-year high after the Hungarian central bank signalled an imminent hike in interest rates to combat inflation.
“In Central Europe, we note a rather moderate surge in producer prices, relative to a more persistent increase in households’ inflation expectations,” Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a recent note.
“The latter represents the main risks for long-term financial stability ... we think the central banks in Central Europe should begin policy normalization earlier.”
Rising inflation expectations are a recurring trend among markets this year, as more economies emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns.
The South African rand weakened 0.2% after marking its best day in two weeks on Thursday, as caution kicked in ahead of a S&P credit rating review later in the day. The agency currently rates South Africa’s debt at BB-, three notches below investment grade, with a “stable” outlook.
The rand was set to add 0.8% this week, after the country’s central bank held interest rates as expected and flagged stronger economic growth.
Most stocks in EMEA rose, while the MSCI’s index of EM stocks gained 0.2%. The index was set to add nearly 2% this week.
($1 = 0.8185 euros)
Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips