STI

EMERGING MARKETS-Most Asian FX steady ahead of Powell speech, equities mixed

Credit: REUTERS/EDGAR SU

By John Biju

March 6 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies were flat on Wednesday, ahead of a testimony by the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, while equities were mixed as investors awaited more policy cues from the annual Chinese parliamentary session.

Most currencies were largely unchanged but the Indonesian rupiah IDR= and the Thai baht THB=TH climbed 0.4% each.

Market participants remained cautious ahead of congressional testimony from Fed Chair Powell, which will be closely assessed for any clues on when rate cuts will happen in the United States.

Ken Cheung, chief Asia FX strategist at Mizuho Bank, said that any remark deviating from the view of "no rush to cut rates" will introduce FX volatility.

Investors are also on the lookout for U.S. jobs data for February due on Friday for further policy clues.

Equities in Asia were mixed with shares in South Korea .KS11, Malaysia .KLSE, the Philippines .PSI and India .NSEI declining between 0.3% and 0.4%.

In contrast, Taiwan stocks .TWII extended gains to a third session to hit another record high. Shares in Singapore .STI and Thailand .SETI rose as much as 1.4% and 1.2%, respectively.

China's parliament started its week-long annual session on Tuesday where it set a widely expected 5% growth target for this year and kept investors waiting for substantial policy measures, although an initial lack of stimulus disappointed some investors.

"Given the fact that the renminbi is still largely stable and Chinese authorities are still quite keen to stabilize equity markets, we would probably still be in an environment where any pullbacks would be relatively shallow," Wei Liang Chang, macro strategist (FX and Credit) at DBS Bank, said.

Authorities might be willing to introduce further measures and this should support the market as a whole, he added.

Equities in China .SSEC declined 0.2% while the yuan CNY=CFXS was flat.

Meanwhile, inflation in South Korea accelerated in February and came in above expectations. Inflation data from the Philippines on Tuesday also surprised to the upside.

The data "introduce a little bit of caution for Asian policymakers in terms of rate cuts", Chang said.

"They are all waiting to assess if inflation is indeed fully quelled or there could be still some persistent price pressures that will require rates remain at a high level for the time being."

That would mean Asian currencies could see some support from policy rates being held for a more extended period of time, he said.

Focus is also on a monetary policy decision by the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) on Thursday, where it is expected to stand pat on rates and hold there until at least 2026, according to a Reuters poll.

HIGHLIGHTS:

** World Bank says Thai interest rates appropriate, neutral

** Chinese investors rush abroad, hitting outbound investment limit

** Philippine central bank governor rules out easing rates 'soon'

Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0713 GMT

COUNTRY

FX RIC

FX DAILY %

FX YTD %

INDEX

STOCKS DAILY %

STOCKS YTD %

Japan

JPY=

+0.39

-5.61

.N225

-0.02

19.80

China

CNY=CFXS

-0.00

-1.38

.SSEC

-0.20

2.25

India

INR=IN

+0.00

+0.38

.NSEI

-0.43

2.43

Indonesia

IDR=

+0.38

-1.97

.JKSE

0.62

0.27

Malaysia

MYR=

+0.06

-2.96

.KLSE

-0.43

5.21

Philippines

PHP=

+0.18

-0.84

.PSI

-0.39

6.64

S.Korea

KRW=KFTC

+0.00

-3.48

.KS11

-0.30

-0.52

Singapore

SGD=

+0.11

-1.63

.STI

1.05

-3.10

Taiwan

TWD=TP

-0.09

-2.72

.TWII

0.58

8.75

Thailand

THB=TH

+0.38

-4.19

.SETI

0.95

-3.08

Graphic: World FX rates https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E

Asian stock markets https://tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4

(Reporting by John Biju in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates and Mrigank Dhaniwala)

((John.Biju@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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