Wires

EMERGING MARKETS-Stocks tumble as China virus fears batter risk appetite

Shreyashi Sanyal

* EM stocks index set for sixth straight day of losses

* South African rand falls to lowest since mid December

* China virus death toll rises to 170

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Emerging-market stocks were facing their worst day since early August on Thursday as the rising death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China led investors to continue selling risk assets.

Equity markets in Asia saw panic selling as the death toll from the epidemic rose to 170 and the number of confirmed cases reached 7,711.

Taiwan's benchmark index slumped 5.8% in its first session since the Lunar New Year break. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 2.6%.

"Fears are increasing again and should continue to weigh on global markets with Asian equities suffering harder knockdowns," Stephen Innes, the chief market strategist at AxiCorp, wrote in a note.

"Taiwan's equity markets reopened today to a 5% beatdown, but the volumes were big, suggesting a bit of panic as investors are leaving the party dance floor and heading for fire exits quickly."

MSCI's index for emerging-market equities tumbled more than 2%, set for its sixth straight day of declines. The index has shed nearly 5% in the past six sessions, since the virus left investors scurrying for safe havens.

Analysts also pointed to declines in commodity-linked currencies, since China accounts for a significant portion of global commodity demand. MSCI's index for emerging-market currencies slipped 0.4%.

Russia's rouble continued to weaken against the dollar for the second straight day, tracking declines in oil prices. The Russian central bank contributed to the decline by increasing its daily buying of foreign currency for state reserves this month.

The South African rand slipped to its lowest in a month and a half, under pressure from a weak domestic economic outlook. Power cuts have pushed the economy to the brink of recession.

Central bank data on Thursday showed growth in private- sector credit in South Africa slowed in December to 6.14% year-on-year from 6.60% in November.

Currencies in central and eastern Europe - the Czech crown , Hungarian forint and Polish zloty - traded in a tight range against the euro.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2020, see http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2020, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX

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For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King)