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08/12/1998 15:44:03 EMERGING MARKETS FX-Rouble under pressure

By Gill Tudor

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - The rouble was quoted well below

the Russian central bank's target band on Wednesday amid

cripplingly low liquidity and persistent devaluation rumours,

but Asian emerging currencies took heart from the firmer yen.

The rouble was at 6.32 bid against the dollar at 1400 GMT,

well below the central bank's target bid/offer corridor of

6.2410/6.2960 roubles per dollar and compared with 6.3 bid in

late London trading on Tuesday.

"That's probably a nominal bid figure -- it's hard to find

rouble buyers," said Paul McNamara, emerging markets economist

at Julius Baer Investments in London.

"It's reached crisis point out there. It's hard to see any

way out other than devaluation."

The Russian central bank said low liquidity and low

confidence in the banking system were bringing Moscow's

interbank currency trade to a halt.

First Deputy Central Bank Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko

announced the bank had raised overnight credit limits for some

banks to boost rouble liquidity, while reducing or closing

dollar-purchasing lines for some.

"I think one of the things they're trying to do...is

effectively to keep the Russian banks from arbitraging between

the central bank and the interbank markets," Margot Jacobs of

United Financial Group in Moscow told Reuters Television.

A currency trader in London, who asked not to be

identified, said the news suggested the central bank was not

defending the rouble aggressively.

The rouble's slide below the target band reflected the

general nervousness afflicting Russian markets.

Russian stocks and bonds rallied slightly, but stocks

remained close to their lowest for more than two years, and

Russian dollar-denominated debt was only just off the historic

lows plumbed for the fourth day running on Tuesday.

Most emerging Asian currencies firmed slightly, taking

heart from a modest rally in the yen, which clawed its way back

to around 146 to the dollar from Tuesday's eight-year low of

147.64 after warnings from Japanese officials that it was too

weak.

Jitters over the possibility of a Chinese yuan devaluation

were never far away.

China's ambassador to India, Zhou Gang, said Beijing might

be forced to rethink its "no devaluation" policy if the yen

fell further, but analysts doubted this heralded a major

turnaround.

"That's a boot to the Japanese government -- they want the

Japanese to reflate their economy," said one analyst who asked

not to be identified. "The (Chinese) government said the same

thing just before (U.S. President Bill) Clinton went to China.

It's clearly meant to put pressure on Japan."

The rupiah was the biggest gainer, reaching 12,700 per

dollar bid around 1400 GMT from 13,400 in late London trading

on Tuesday. The ringgit firmed to 4.1875 per dollar against

4.25 on Tuesday, and the Philippine peso rallied to 43.25 from

43.8.

In Central Europe, the zloty recovered slightly to be fixed

at 8.36 above its basket parity after touching a one-month low

of 7.65 percent at Tuesday's fix, but it remained off last

week's highs of more than nine percent above parity.

The Czech crown eased slightly to 17.87 bid against the

mark, compared with 17.845 in Tuesday's late London trade, and

then dropped to brush 18.00 for a moment late in the day.

Analysts said the central banks in both countries would be

happy to see the currencies off recent highs.

"There's an awful lot of hot money in both markets,"

McNamara said. "If the speculators start pulling out it'll be a

relief."

The outlook for emerging market currencies remained

generally bearish.

"The underlying problems are still there," said Nick Douch,

emerging market currency strategist at Barclay's Capital in

London. "There are still big problems in Russia, and other

emerging markets will take their action from Asia."

FOREX MARKETS SNAPSHOT. The following is a snapshot of

emerging markets currency rates. Double-click on currency codes

for updated price quotes. * ASIA <AFX=> * Indonesian rupiah

<IDR=> 12,700 per dollar bid vs 13,400 late in London on

Tuesday. * Malaysian ringgit <MYR=> 4.1875 per dollar bid vs

4.25 * Thai baht <THB=TH> unchanged at 42.3 per dollar bid *

Philippine peso <PHP=> 43.25 per dollar bid vs 43.8 * South

Korean won <KRW=> at 1,329 per dollar vs 1,330 * Singapore

dollar <SGD=> 1.7475 per dollar versus 1.761 * Indian rupee

<INR=> 42.85 per dollar vs 42.75. * EUROPE <EUROPEFX=> *

Russian rouble <RUB=> at 6.32 per dollar bid vs 6.3 on Tuesday.

* Zloty fixed at 8.36 percent above target basket parity vs

7.65 percent on Tuesday. * Mark/Czech crown <DEMCZK=> at 17.87

bid vs 17.845 * Slovak crown <DEMSKK=> 19.857 on mark vs

19.828 * Hungarian forint <DEMHUF=> 123.89 vs mark against

124.54 * Ukrainian hryvnia <UAH=> at 2.1437 per dollar vs

2.144 * Romanian leu <ROL=> at 8,700 per dollar vs 8,705 *

AFRICA <AFRICAFX=> & MIDEAST <MEFX=> * Israeli shekel <ILS=>

3.681 bid on dollar from Tuesday's 3.6784 * South African

rand <ZAR=> at 6.31 per dollar vs 6.34 * Kenyan shilling

<KES=> at 59.25 vs 58.6 * LATIN AMERICA <LATAMFX=> * Mexican

peso <MXN=> at 9.163 per dollar vs 9.172 * Brazil's real

<BRL=> at 1.17 per dollar vs 1.1684 ((London newsroom +44 171

542 6414, fax 583 7239, uk.emergingmarkets.news@reuters.com))

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