(Updates prices, adds Latin America, analyst quote, factbox)
By Asher Levine and Sujata Rao
RIO DE JANEIRO/LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble stepped back from all-time lows on Friday after the central bank left interest rates on hold and hinted at tighter future policy, while Latin American currencies extended gains against the dollar.
The benchmark emerging equity index was on track for its second weekly gain in a row, helped by a rebound in Chinese shares.
The rouble briefly fell to a record low against the euro and the dollar-euro basket, before paring losses.
The Russian central bank held its key policy rate as expected, but warned that it may tighten policy if a weakening rouble causes inflation to deviate from its mid-term targets.
“After the central bank meeting the rouble is strengthening a bit but the market is reluctant to go long the rouble, we could see it stuck a bit,” said Sebastien Barbe, head of emerging market strategy at Credit Agricole in Paris.
Central banks in emerging markets are under growing pressure to raise interest rates, to support their currencies and head off inflation caused by weaker exchange rates.
Barbe said investors are convinced the central bank will defend the rouble from further weakness.
Latin American currencies mostly firmed, with investors awaiting policy statements and presentations from the Mexican, Peruvian and Colombian central banks later in the day.
Brazil’s real strengthened for a second day after central bank president Alexandre Tombini said Brazil is prepared to use international reserves if needed to curb volatility in the foreign exchange market.
“The real is still being pressured by Tombini’s words yesterday,” said Marco Trabbold, a trader with B&T in Sao Paulo.
Yields on Brazilian interest rate futures dropped, however, after data showed economic activity fell sharply in December, raising the specter that Latin America’s largest economy may have slipped into recession.
Elsewhere, Ghana’s cedi currency hit another all-time record against the dollar. The dollar/cedi is on track for the biggest weekly gain since 2008.
But currencies of “Fragile Five” economies reliant on external capital have fared better, having been under extreme pressure in the past month.
The Indonesian rupiah rose to 11-week highs after data showed a contraction in the current account deficit that has made it particularly vulnerable. The currency was headed for its biggest weekly gain since October.
India also posted better inflation numbers in fresh signs of data improvement, boosting local bonds and the rupee, while the South African rand rose 0.53 percent to 10.90. The Turkish lira was also firmer.
Currencies in central Europe rallied versus the euro with the Czech crown at a four-week high and the forint rising 0.6 percent after stronger-than-expected growth data in both countries.
Many see the current stabilisation in emerging markets as temporary, however, with currency weakness resuming as the Federal Reserve withdraws its monetary stimulus further.
“This is very much a currency story. Currencies are key driver of emerging markets because it’s a key source of return,” said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist for BlackRock.
“Discussions on emerging markets often begin and end with currencies. For that we will see more vulnerability ahead.”
For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2014, see link.reuters.com/jus35t
For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2014, see link.reuters.com/weh36s
For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging Europe performance 2014, see link.reuters.com/jun28s
For GRAPHIC on MSCI frontier index performance 2014, see link.reuters.com/zyh97s
For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see
For TURKISH market report, see
For RUSSIAN market report, see ) (Additional reporting by Bruno Federowski and Natsuko Waki)