By Anisha Sircar and Medusas Quest Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 18 (Reuters) – The Russian rouble led gains among major emerging market currencies in Europe, Middle East and Africa on Friday, buoyed by hopes of a solution to the standoff between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

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The rouble was 1.1% stronger against the dollar after slipping 1.5% in its previous session.

Some risk appetite returned to markets after the U.S.State Department said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed to a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov next week, provided Russia does not invade Ukraine.

Despite volatility, the rouble is heading for a gain of 2.2% this week, as rising oil and gas prices, a pause in foreign currency purchases, and an interest rate hike by the Russian central bank made it an attractive bet for investors.

“We seem to have reached the climax of the crisis a few days ago…The market moved on by pricing in additional risk, and since that hasn’t materialized, the market started to price out a little bit of that risk. And so the rouble has rebounded,” said Cristian Maggio, head of strategy at TD Securities.

Most emerging market currencies have been hit by the crisis, with a few reports of easing tensions breathing some life back into geopolitical trade.

“The market is in wait-and-see mode, where there are contradictory headlines that continue to drive volatility, but there’s no substantive evidence that things are evolving in one direction or another,” Maggio added.

The lira slipped 0.3%, and eyed a weekly decline of 0.8%, as official data showed consumer confidence dropped 2.8% to 71.2 points in February, but remained above a record low touched in December.

On Thursday, the country’s central bank kept its policy rate unchanged despite surging inflation.

“Looking ahead, the lira is going to be highly vulnerable to regional geopolitical tensions via higher energy prices, lower tourism and disruption to trade,” said Ima Sammani, FX Market Analyst at Monex Europe.

Turkish stocks rose 0.5%, while the broader MSCI emerging markets stocks index slipped 0.6%, and its counterpart for currencies climbed 0.2%.

South Africa’s rand advanced 0.1% as prices of gold, its key export, got a boost amid geopolitical tensions, while blue-chip stocks in the region were flat.

South African retailer Massmart Holdings declined 3.5% after flagging a wider annual loss, hurt by store damage and lower trading income due to looting during the country’s civil unrest last year.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2022, see website For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2022, see website

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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