February 7, 2018 / 10:29 AM / 7 months ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Stocks stabilise, Zuma exit saga drags on

* EM stocks steady after biggest drop in almost 2 years

* Rand choppy given uncertainty over President Zuma’s tenure

* India keeps rates on hold, Poland and Romania up next

* Kenyan bonds hold ground amid political tensions

By Marc Jones

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Emerging markets rode a stabilisation in global stocks on Wednesday to pull out of their heaviest slump in almost two years, though the dollar was gradually reapplying the pressure to the most heavily traded currencies.

The rise in MSCI’s 24-country EM stocks gauge was a modest 0.1 percent, but after Tuesday’s 2.7 percent slump and a more than 7 percent fall over the last week, investors were happy just for the breather.

“My sense is that the correction may not be completely over as valuations are still pretty stretched,” said Societe Generale strategist Regis Chatellier. “I don’t think it will be a traumatic sell-off though.”

There were plenty of idiosyncratic moves still developing which meant pulse rates didn’t drop too far.

South Africa’s rand remained choppy and stocks back-pedalled amid ongoing uncertainty over President Jacob Zuma’s future.

News that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) had postponed Zuma’s state of the nation address on Thursday had spurred bets his resignation was imminent, but the cancellation of a party meeting where his future was due to be discussed then dimmed hopes of an early exit.

It left the rand treading water at 11.90 per dollar having swung in and out of positive territory during Asian and then in early local trading.

Further north east in Africa, Kenyan bonds held their ground as an opposition politician was charged with treason over a symbolic ‘swearing in’ of opposition leader Raila Odinga that was a direct challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Odinga ran against Kenyatta in a presidential election last August, which was nullified by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds. Kenyatta then won a repeat poll in October after Odinga boycotted it.

Ratings agencies are now circling about a potential downgrade if the strains do further damage to reform efforts.

For story on emerging market hit from global volatility click

CENTRAL FOCUS

Elsewhere, Indian markets barely budged as its central bank kept its main interest rate at 6 percent and it policy stance at “neutral” as it bids to balance a slowing economy again fast rising inflation.

Poland and Romania’s central banks were also holding meetings.

Poland looked set to keep its rates at a record low of 1.50 percent, though its signals will be key with no rise currently seen until early next year.

In contrast, Romania is expected to raise its rates by another quarter point to 2.25 percent after last month saw its first hike in a decade.

Inflation and wages are rising rapidly and analysts expect upcoming data to show the Romanian economy grew a sizzling 7 percent in the final part of last year.

“Provided that our call for a hike materialises, we could see a short lived appreciation of the RON (Romanian leu),” ING Bank said in a note.

“In line with the previous two public interventions, we might see NBR governor Isarescu talking down RON strengthening,” it added.

The zloty, the world’s best-performing currency last year along with the Czech crown, gained 0.22 percent to 4.1570 to the euro by 0930 GMT. The leu eased 0.1 percent.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2018, see tmsnrt.rs/2e7eoml For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2018, see tmsnrt.rs/2dZbdP5

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For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

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For RUSSIAN market report, see)

Additional reporting by Claire Milhench; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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