* Chinese stocks fall after factory PMI hits 7-month low
* Ukrainian debt insurance costs highest since Dec 2009
* Nigerian naira hits record low after cbank chief suspended
By Carolyn Cohn
LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Weak manufacturing data from China knocked 1 percent from emerging market stocks on Thursday, while Ukraine’s debt insurance costs rose to their highest since December 2009 on its escalating conflict.
Chinese stocks fell from two-month highs reached earlier on Thursday after the flash February purchasing managers’ index hit a seven-month low of 48.3.
Worries about a slowdown in the Chinese economy have contributed to the sharp sell-off in emerging markets in recent months.
“The story of China remains one of very sluggish growth,” said Luis Costa, emerging markets strategist at Citi.
“It does not bode well in an environment where emerging market FX is already trading nervously.”
Investors were also rattled by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to suspend Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi, an increasingly outspoken critic of the government’s record on tackling rampant corruption.
The MSCI emerging equities index fell 1 percent.
Ukraine’s five-year credit default swaps rose 48 basis points to 1,373 bps, according to Markit, after at least 21 people were killed on Thursday in Kiev, shattering an overnight truce and bringing the death toll above 50.
But Ukrainian dollar bonds steadied after sharp drops in the previous session on the violent conflict between President Viktor Yanukovich’s government and anti-government protesters.
Three European Union foreign ministers flew out of Kiev on Thursday without seeing Yanukovich, but three others were meeting the president, diplomats said.
Ukraine’s June 2014 dollar bond edged up 0.1 point to 93, according to Tradeweb, and the 2017 bond fell 0.2 point to 82.37, according to Reuters data.
Traders said prices were marked down, rather than sold off heavily, in the previous session. Some bonds are also thought to still be in the hands of large U.S. investors like Franklin Templeton, which held large portions of several issues according to end-December filings.
“I believe there has been some reshuffling but the biggest strategic positions are still there,” said Costa.
The hryvnia spot rate hit fresh five-year lows, and forward rates were implying a 17.5 percent depreciation in a year’s time.
Investors are watching the fall-out from Ukraine to neighbouring economies such as Poland and Russia.
The rouble approached the previous day’s five-year lows against the dollar.
“The rouble has been caught by the EM currency sell-off,” said Joseph Dayan, London-based managing director for Russian broker BCS Financial Group.
“Ukraine is another unfortunate factor weighing in.”
Most emerging European and African currencies were steady to softer, after falling in Wednesday as the Ukraine crisis seeped into other markets.
The Nigerian naira hit a record low of 169 to the dollar before trading stopped after the move against Sanusi, a favourite with international investors.
Nigerian stocks fell 2 percent and are the worst-performing in the MSCI frontiers index this year, after stellar gains last year.
Sanusi, who was due to end his term in June, had been presenting evidence to parliament which he said showed the state oil company had failed to remit around $20 billion that it owed to federal government coffers. Sanusi said he would challenge the decision.
“We investors do not like abrupt moves,” said Citi’s Costa. “This is obviously negative news.”
Jonathan named managing director of Zenith Bank Godwin Emefiele as the next central bank governor, but he was not to start until June.
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