EMERGING MARKETS-Trade hopes nudge EM assets higher; Rand firms on ratings relief

* China, U.S. 'very close' to phase one trade deal -report

* South African rand firms after S&P ratings reprieve

* Russia's rouble supported by month-end tax payments

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Agamoni Ghosh

Nov 25 (Reuters) - Assets in emerging markets strengthened slightly on Monday after a report said the United States and China were 'very close' to a phase one deal, while South Africa's rand firmed on the back of a sovereign rating reprieve.

An index of stocks in the developing world gained 0.4%, its second straight rise, as the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, playing down "negative" media reports on the Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

Markets are now hoping that the two countries will reach a trade agreement soon to end a drawn-out tariff war that has hampered economic growth globally.

"China wants the U.S. to roll back the Dec. 15 tariffs which we think is the main prerequisite now for them to sign a trade deal," said Iris Pang, economist, Greater China at ING in Hong Kong. "There is hope that the December tariffs will be delayed."

The South African rand stood out among currencies after S&P Global Ratings decided to revise the country's credit outlook instead of lowering its sovereign rating. The move was welcomed by investors as it alleviated some of the negative sentiment over the country's growth prospects.

"The ZAR strength perhaps shows some relief that S&P didn't lower South Africa's debt further into 'junk' status and a suggestion of the continued favourability of carry trade opportunity in the country," said Shaun Murison, senior market analyst at IG Markets.

A more optimistic mood around the U.S.-China trade rhetoric helped Hong Kong and China stocks end Friday higher.

Turkish stocks rose half a percent, while the lira weakened.

Central bank data showed business confidence among Turkish manufacturers rose to 102 points in November compared to 100.9 points in the previous month.

The Russian rouble strengthened slightly, supported by month-end tax payments that usually prompt export-focused companies to convert their foreign currency revenues to meet local duties.

Stocks in Russia also rose, helped by gains in the country's biggest mobile phone operator MTS after agreeing to sell its Ukrainian business.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2019, see http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2019, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX

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For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru, Editing by William Maclean)

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