June 24, 2020 / 5:02 AM / 13 days ago

EMERGING MARKETS-Thai baht firms to 5-month high as c.bank seen on hold

    * Graphic: World FX rates tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
    * Graphic: Foreign flows into Asian stocks tmsnrt.rs/3f2vwbA
    * Asia FX strengthens as dollar comes under pressure
    * Bank of Thailand likely to keep rates unchanged at record

    By Shriya Ramakrishnan
    June 24 (Reuters) - The Thai baht firmed along with other
Asian currencies on Wednesday, as investors expect the central
bank to keep its policy rate unchanged while the dollar weakened
following stronger U.S. and European economic data.
    U.S. business activity contracted for a fifth straight month
in June, but at a slower pace, while surveys showed a historic
downturn in the euro zone easing, boosting investors appetite
for riskier investments globally.
    The won and South Korean shares were lifted by
reports that North Korea had decided to suspend military action
plans against South Korea.
    In Thailand, the baht gained as much as 0.4% to its
strongest since late January, while the country's stock market
also rose as much as half a percent. 
    A majority of analysts polled by Reuters expect the Bank of
Thailand to leave rates unchanged to assess the economic impact
of three rate cuts earlier this year to soften the blow from the
impact of the coronavirus.
    While a stronger currency has added to concerns for the
export-focused economy, analysts do not expect the central bank
to take immediate action on that front. Thai rates are already
at a record low of 0.5%.
    "Thailand is perhaps amongst the few ahead on the COVID-19
curve in the region and can keep some dry powder for the time
being, though another cut later into the year to boost demand
should not be ruled out," said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist
at IG Asia.
    The mood across most other Southeast Asian equity markets
remained sombre as caution prevailed due to a continued spike in
global coronavirus infections. 
    In the Philippines, which reported its biggest single-day
increase in infections on Tuesday, the central bank meets on
Thursday and is expected to pause after slashing interest rates
by a total of 125 basis points this year.
    Indonesian equities outperformed, while the rupiah
 stabilised after three consecutive days of declines.
    "I think the re-opening of economic activities in Jakarta
and its surrounding areas still bolster investor confidence to
tap into our equity market, as well as rupiah," Anthony Kevin,
an economist at Mirae Asset Indonesia said. 
  Asia stock indexes and                                    
 currencies at   0355 GMT                              
                    DAILY %        %            DAILY  S YTD
                                                    %      %
 Japan                -0.02    +1.95           -0.26   -4.93
 China     <CNY=CF    -0.19    -1.52             0.15  -2.46
 India     <INR=IN    +0.00    -5.64             0.56  -13.4
           >                                               7
 Indonesi             +0.14    -1.49             1.28  -21.5
 a                                                         5
 Malaysia             +0.00    -4.31            -0.19  -5.33
 Philippi             -0.10    +1.14            -0.74  -20.0
 nes                                                       2
 S.Korea   <KRW=KF    +0.62    -3.74             1.47  -1.59
 Singapor             +0.26    -3.09             0.12  -18.1
 e                                                         4
 Taiwan    <TWD=TP    +0.27    +1.86             0.29  -2.93
 Thailand  <THB=TH    +0.16    -3.14             0.36  -13.8
           >                                               3

 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by
Jacqueline Wong)
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