EMERGING MARKETS-Stronger dollar pressures currencies amid Ukraine tension, hawkish Fed bets

       * Hungary's forint firm after unexpectedly bigger rate hike
    * IMF lowers Brazil, Mexico economic growth forecasts

    By Susan Mathew and Anisha Sircar
    Jan 25 (Reuters) - Most emerging market currencies weakened
on Tuesday as the Ukraine crisis and anxiety around U.S.
monetary policy sent investors fleeing to the safety of the
dollar, while Hungary's forint rallied after a
larger-than-expected interest rate hike.
    Russia's volatile rouble was flat at 79 per dollar,
staying near 14-month lows.
    As the West reinforces troops in Eastern Europe and readies
sanctions in case of a Russian invasion of its neighbor, the
rouble has lost more than 5% this month.
    Hungary's forint gave up session losses to rise
0.4% against the euro after the country's central bank raised
its base rate by 50 basis points to 2.9%, the highest in eight
years, to fight inflation which is forecast to be at its highest
level in a decade this year.
    Expectations were for the central bank to hike by 30 basis
points.
    Most emerging markets are in an interest rate hiking cycle
as surging inflation and likely tighter monetary policy in
developed markets piles pressure on EM central banks.
    Brazil has been the most aggressive in the world, with its
central bank having hiked the key interest rate by 725 basis
points last year.
    JPMorgan strategists see another 150-basis-point hike in
Brazil in February, followed by another 100-basis-point increase
in March. That would take the policy rate to 11.75%.
    As investors fretted about how hawkish the Federal Reserve
might be when its two-day policy meeting ends on Wednesday, the
dollar hit more than two-week highs. While a
25-basis-point Fed hike in March is fully priced in, bets that
it could be brought forward to this week unnerved markets.

    Brazil's real gave up session losses, while Mexico's
peso fell 0.4%, shrugging off data that showed Mexican
economic activity advanced by 0.3% in November from October,
partly narrowing the risk that the economy fell into recession
in the second half of 2021.
    The International Monetary Fund lowered its 2022 economic
growth forecasts for the region's two largest economies - Brazil
and Mexico - citing inflation, tighter monetary policy and a
lower growth estimate for the United States.
    Peru's finance minister on Monday revised down the country's
economic growth forecast to between 3.5% and 4% in 2022, from an
earlier forecast of 4.8%.
    In Chile, markets awaited the appointment of a new central
bank chief after the current head was picked as the finance
minister in President-elect Gabriel Boric's Cabinet.

    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1416 GMT:
   Stock indexes            Latest    Daily %
                                      change
 MSCI Emerging Markets       1209.52    -1.03

 MSCI LatAm                  2188.84     0.07

 Brazil Bovespa            108178.02     0.22

 Mexico IPC                        -        -

 Chile IPSA                  4496.96    -0.14

 Argentina MerVal                  -        -

 Colombia COLCAP             1522.12    -0.09


       Currencies           Latest    Daily %
                                      change
 Brazil real                  5.4969     0.17

 Mexico peso                 20.6684    -0.52

 Chile peso                   807.60    -0.16

 Colombia peso               3999.41    -0.69
 Peru sol                      3.849    -0.22

 Argentina peso             104.5900    -0.06
 (interbank)


 (Reporting by Susan Mathew and Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru;)

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