LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - On track for healthy weekly gains, emerging markets hit a soft spot on Friday with stocks pulling back from a 19-month high and currencies struggling to make headway against a tepid dollar as lower commodity prices and questions over U.S. policy weighed.
MSCI's emerging market benchmark fell 0.4 percent with bourses in Hong Kong, South Korea, Russia and South Africa down more than half a percent. Yet the index was also on track for a weekly rise of around 1 percent, having gained eight out of the nine last weeks.
Despite the dollar slipping for a third day, currencies such as South Africa's rand, Russia's rouble , the Turkish lira and Mexican peso all weakened against the greenback.
China's yuan joined the falls, unfazed by President Donald Trump ratcheting up the rhetoric again and declaring Beijing the "grand champions" of currency manipulation.
Trump's comments came just hours after his new Treasury secretary vowed to stick to a more methodical approach to analyzing China's foreign exchange practices.
Meanwhile Beijing said it had no intention of using currency devaluation to seek advantages and retorted China was a "grand champion" of economic development.
"At the moment we are in a sort of no mans land as far as markets are concerned," said Simon Quijano-Evans, emerging markets strategist at Legal & General Investment Management.
"Since Trump's inauguration it's been a bumpy ride and if we focus on what he has been saying about China, the intention to charge U.S. firms abroad taxes, the narrative on Mexico - it seems very clear these policy aims have been set in stone and it's a question for waiting for them to happen."
Despite the falls on the day, most currencies had a strong run over the week. The lira looked to add 1.5 percent in its fourth straight week of gains.
The rand nearly matched the gains in its second week in the black after having hit its strongest level in 18-months earlier in the week after Finance Minister Gordhan delivered a budget targeting the wealthy with tax hikes in a bid to trim the budget deficit amid disappointing growth and very high unemployment.
Policy makers at Colombia's central bank are expected to keep interest rates at hold at 7.50 percent expectations for inflation remain high, putting at risk their target for this year.
Investors were also awaiting ratings agency Fitch's review of Azerbaijan and Greece, while S&P is expected to publish its latest assessment of Hungary and Iraq.
Emerging Markets Prices from Reuters Equities Latest Net Chg % Chg % Chg
Morgan Stanley Emrg Mkt Indx 948.19 -3.93 -0.41 +9.96
Czech Rep 964.33 -7.87 -0.81 +4.64
Poland 2235.19 -20.82 -0.92 +14.75
Hungary 33044.41 -504.13 -1.50 +3.25
Romania 7994.63 -50.38 -0.63 +12.84
Greece 647.30 -2.22 -0.34 +0.57
Russia 1136.41 -9.60 -0.84 -1.38
South Africa 44835.88 -270.10 -0.60 +2.13
Turkey 88783.88 -354.50 -0.40 +13.62
China 3253.03 +1.66 +0.05 +4.81
India 28892.97 +28.26 +0.10 +8.51
Currencies Latest Prev Local Local
close currency currency
% change % change
Czech Rep 27.00 27.01 +0.04 +0.02
Poland 4.31 4.30 -0.17 +2.22
Hungary 308.45 308.53 +0.03 +0.12
Romania 4.51 4.52 +0.01 +0.45
Serbia 123.84 123.92 +0.06 -0.40
Russia 57.86 57.76 -0.18 +5.88
Kazakhstan 311.99 311.81 -0.06 +6.94
Ukraine 26.97 26.90 -0.26 +0.11
South Africa 12.91 12.86 -0.35 +6.40
Kenya 103.35 103.50 +0.15 -0.95
Israel 3.70 3.70 -0.02 +4.17
Turkey 3.57 3.57 -0.18 -1.34
China 6.87 6.86 -0.12 +1.06
India 66.60 66.69 +0.14 +2.03
Brazil 3.06 3.06 -0.07 +6.27
Mexico 19.71 19.66 -0.21 +5.12
Debt Index Strip Spd Chg %Rtn Index
Sov'gn Debt EMBIG 332 0 .04 7 64.44 1
All data taken from Reuters at 09:57 GMT. Currency percent change calculated from the daily U.S. close at 2130 GMT.
For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see
For TURKISH market report, see
For RUSSIAN market report, see) (Additional reporting by Sujata Rao)