July 20, 2020 / 8:11 AM / 15 days ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Rupiah reels as virus cases surge, politics bites baht

    * Graphic: World FX rates tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
    * Graphic: Foreign flows into Asian stocks tmsnrt.rs/3f2vwbA
    * Rupiah hits lowest since May 19
    * Baht tumbles to seven-week low
    * Philippine stocks climb 1%

    By Shashwat Awasthi and Pranav A K
    July 20 (Reuters) - Indonesia's rupiah fell to a two-month low and Jakarta stocks skidded on
Monday, after the country's number of coronavirus cases overtook China for the first time, while
the resignation of a fifth cabinet member in five days hit the Thai baht.
    The rupiah lost as much as 0.9% against the dollar, while shares gave up
0.8%, as infections in Indonesia reached almost 85,000 and authorities in Southeast Asia's
largest economy warned the number could be even higher than reported.
    Bank Indonesia, which last week cut official interest rates for the fourth time this year,
on Monday forecast an economic contraction of between 4.0% to 4.8% year-on-year for the second
quarter and predicted a "U-shaped" recovery from the pandemic.
    The central bank later stepped in to try and calm nerves following Monday's decline, saying
it had intervened on the currency and would step up efforts to defend the rupiah if the exchange
rate weakened sharply.
    In Bangkok, the baht fell 0.4% to its lowest since June 1, and stocks gave up
earlier gains to trade 0.2% lower, after the Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Tewan
Liptapanlop quit.
    The latest departure comes amid mounting uncertainty following the sudden exit of Finance
Minister Uttama Savanayana last week, calls for the government to resign and a delay in picking
a new central bank chief.
    "We are in the middle of finding a new economic team ... there is uncertainty around the
outlook for the fiscal policy to support the Thai economy and also to restart the economy back
to normal," said Peerapan Suwannarat, senior market and economic research specialist at
Kasikornbank.
    "The turning point should be the naming of the new (finance) minister."
    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday he had asked top banking executive Predee
Daochai, widely tipped to take over at finance, to join his cabinet. Outgoing central bank
Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob ruled himself out of joining the new economic team on Saturday.

    Elsewhere, Philippine stocks recouped some recent losses to rise 1%, while investors
looked for cues from Europe and the United States on further fiscal stimulus to counteract the
effects of the pandemic.
    Singapore shares were down around half a percent.
    
    HIGHLIGHTS:
    ** Indonesian 3-year benchmark yields are down 6.5 basis points at 5.962%
    ** Top losers on the Jakarta stock index include Garuda Metalindo Tbk down
6.99%, Inter Delta Tbk down 6.96% and Pembangunan Graha Lestari Indah Tbk
down 6.84%
    ** In the Philippines, top index gainers are Metro Pacific Investments up 4.6%,
Universal Robina up 3.97% and Ayala Land up 3.94%
    
  Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0731 GMT                                             
   COUNTRY      FX RIC    FX DAILY %   FX YTD %       INDEX     STOCKS DAILY %  STOCKS YTD %
    Japan                   -0.21        +1.30                       0.09          -3.97
    China                   +0.01        -0.39                       3.11           8.66
    India                   +0.09        -4.76                       0.74          -9.75
  Indonesia                 -0.69        -5.72                      -0.73          -19.95
  Malaysia                  +0.00        -4.01                      -0.14           0.33
 Philippines                -0.02        +2.57                       1.02          -21.30
   S.Korea                  +0.16        -3.89                      -0.14           0.02
  Singapore                 -0.06        -3.32                      -0.53          -19.19
   Taiwan                   +0.38        +2.12                      -0.06           1.48
  Thailand                  -0.41        -5.94                      -0.29          -14.19
 
 (Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Pranav A K in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)
  
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