June 22, 2020 / 8:49 AM / 15 days ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Asian stocks, FX rangebound on second wave worry, Banks pressure Thai shares

    * Graphic: World FX rates tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
    * Graphic: Foreign flows into Asian stocks tmsnrt.rs/3f2vwbA
    * Selloff in banking stocks pressure Thai shares
    * Risk sentiment fragile on second wave of COVID-19 fears 

    By Shriya Ramakrishnan
    June 22 (Reuters) - Equities and currencies across Asia's
emerging markets struggled for traction on Monday as worries
about a second wave of coronavirus infections kept investors on
the sidelines, while impending dividend cuts drove a selloff in
Thai banking stocks.
    Thai shares fell over 1% and were the worst
performers, dragged down by steep losses among heavyweight
financial stocks including Siam Commercial Bank and
Bangkok Bank. 
    The central bank on Friday asked commercial lenders not to
buy back shares or pay interim dividends for their 2020
performance to preserve capital so they can withstand potential
economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Markets now await a policy decision from Bank of Thailand on
Wednesday. A Reuters poll showed 17 of 20 analysts expect the
bank will hold fire after three cuts this year and a total of
125 basis points of easing since last August.
    Three, however, called for another cut, and Goldman Sachs
analysts said on Monday the bank has room to move given the
relative strength of the baht through this year's crisis and an
almost 3% gain since the bank's May meeting. 
    "Given the extended negative impacts of the virus on growth
... and the strengthening Baht, we expect the Bank of Thailand
to cut," the U.S. bank said in a note to clients. 
    Caution largely prevailed across the region's stock markets,
with Malaysian and Indonesian equities down 0.1%
and 0.7% each. 
    India stood out with a 1% gain, driven by pharmaceutical
companies and talk of some foreign investors buying in,
following a collapse that has seen it underperform a number of
Asian markets by as much as 20%. 
    Optimism that the stimulus efforts of the world's big
central banks will spur a swift recovery from the coronavirus
downturn has been tempered in the past week by a spike in
infections in several countries, with India top of the list.
    "Constant fear of a second wave could weigh on risk assets
and is supportive of the U.S. dollar for the time being. But as
soon as second wave fears recede, the moves could reverse,"
Maybank analysts said.
    The rupiah was among the worst performers, after
official forecasts predicted weaker growth for the second
quarter and a spike in unemployment this year.
    In South Korea, the won and equities
closed lower after downbeat export data. 
    Philippine shares reversed earlier losses to trade
0.5% higher, while Singapore stocks inched higher.
  Asia stock indexes and                                     
 currencies at   0748 GMT                               
                   DAILY %        %            DAILY %  S YTD
 Japan               -0.07    +1.55             -0.18   -5.15
 China     <CNY=C    -0.09    -1.60              -0.08  -2.78
 India     <INR=I    +0.20    -6.12               1.01  -14.9
           N>                                               6
 Indonesi            -0.35    -1.56              -0.66  -22.0
 a                                                          6
 Malaysia            -0.26    -4.37              -0.07  -5.20
 Philippi            -0.12    +1.08               0.51  -18.7
 nes                                                        8
 S.Korea   <KRW=K    -0.51    -4.89              -0.68  -3.23
 Singapor            +0.09    -3.68               0.27  -18.0
 e                                                          2
 Taiwan    <TWD=T    +0.03    +1.54               0.20  -3.54
 Thailand  <THB=T    +0.13    -3.39              -1.62  -14.6
           H>                                               4

 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru)
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