EMERGING MARKETS-Indian rupee hits over 5-month high, growth worries hit S. Korea
By Shriya Ramakrishnan
Aug 27 (Reuters) - Indian rupee led Asian currencies with a more than half percent gain on Thursday, adding to this week's central bank-inspired appreciation against the dollar, while South Korean shares sank after Bank of Korea slashed its economic outlook for the year.
The rupee had surged 1% on Monday as dealers reported a halt in central bank buying of the dollar, widely understood to be aimed at aiding the competitiveness of Indian exporters as the economy struggles with one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks.
Dealers said a large order, potentially squaring up ahead of a keenly-watched speech by U.S. Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell later later in the day, helped drive the rupee INR=IN to 73.9 per dollar on Thursday, its highest level since March 17.
"It is a fix related selling probably by a large banker or corporate which has contributed to the sudden fall in USD/INR," said Anindya Banerjee, vice president at Kotak Securities.
"The undertone remains of a strong rupee due to a soft USD overseas and robust inflows into equity markets."
Seoul's export-focused KOSPI .KS11 closed more than 1%lower, ending a four-day rally as the grim forecasts from the Bank of Korea added to its highest daily spike in COVID-19 infections since March.
The central bank said it now expected 2020 gross domestic product to shrink 1.3%, compared to 0.2% earlier.
South Korea had been more successful than others in containing the virus, but has been set back by the new outbreak with authorities warning about the possibility of new clusters in densely-populated workspaces.
The won KRW=KFTC inched higher against the dollar, finding some support from the central bank's decision to leave its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.5% after 75 basis points of rate cuts this year.
Most other Asian currencies struggled for direction ahead of Powell's speech.
Investors have largely priced in a dovish message from the Fed chief when he opens the Kansas City Fed's annual economic policy conference, and the question is whether any adjustments he may make to its policy toolbox will be enough to flatten U.S. market interest rates further.
The Indonesian rupiah IDR=, Malaysian ringgit MYR= and Philippine peso PHP= were all flat to marginally lower against the dollar, while the Taiwan dollar TWD=TP stood out once again with gains of 0.6%.
** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are up 3.5 basis points at 6.79%
** Top losers on the Singapore STI .STI include: Mapletree Commercial Trust MACT.SI down 3.03% at S$1.92; Singapore Airlines Ltd SIAL.SI down 2.93% at S$3.65; Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd DAIR.SI down 2.3% at S$4.25
** In the Philippines, top index losers are Manila Electric Co MER.PS down 3.19% at 267 peso; Bloomberry Resorts Corp BLOOM.PS down 2.91% at 6.01 peso; Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc AEV.PS down 2.49% at 47 peso
Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0745 GMT
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(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Rashmi Aich)
((Shriya.Ramakrishnan@thomsonreuters.com; +91 8061822842 ;))
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