February 5, 2020 / 6:52 AM / 22 days ago

EM ASIA FX-Most currencies fall as virus outbreak fuels rate-cut bets

    * Singapore dollar drops 0.9% to near four-month low 
    * Thai baht slips 0.6% ahead of BOT decision due 0700 GMT
    * Philippine peso loses ground on rate-cut expectations

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Rashmi Ashok
    Feb 5 (Reuters) - The Singapore dollar skidded to a near
four-month low on Wednesday, leading losses among Asian
currencies as markets increasingly priced in chances of rate
cuts by central banks in the region to limit an economic hit
from a virus outbreak.
    The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said its exchange
rate-based monetary policy stance remained unchanged, after
having eased policy for the first time in three years at its
last meeting in October.
    However, its statement - that its currency has room to ease
within its current settings to accommodate any economic hit from
the virus - was viewed by markets as an indicator of potential
policy easing at the next meeting in April. 
    In response, the Singapore dollar fell 0.9% to trade
at 1.382 per dollar, the lowest in nearly four months.
    "The MAS' latest comments have prompted investors to price
in the prospects of monetary policy easing in Singapore, before
potential confirmation during the central bank's actual policy
decision in April," said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM.
    "An easing bias by the central bank could further dampen
SGD's performance, potentially adding to the downward pressure,
given the persisting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak's
impact on the global economy."
    Meanwhile, rising expectations of rate cuts by most central
banks in the region to fend off the economic impact of the
coronavirus outbreak gave stocks a leg-up, but put pressure on
    The Philippine peso gave up 0.3% as expectations of a
rate cut by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) at its
Thursday meeting continued to rise. 
    Even a surprise jump in January inflation to an eight-month
high failed to dent the hopes, given the figure was still well
within the central bank's comfort range.
    "We expect the benign inflation dynamics to afford the BSP
scope to cut its policy rate at the Feb. 6 meeting to give the
economy a boost to help navigate the more challenging global
growth scenario," said Nicholas Mapa, a senior economist for
Philippines at ING.
    Along a similar vein, the Thai baht skidded 0.6%,
weakening past the key 31 per dollar level, just ahead of the
Bank of Thailand's policy meeting due around 0700 GMT.
    A Reuters poll showed the BOT is expected to hold its
benchmark rate at a record low, but a significant number of the
economists participating in the poll forecast a rate cut, citing
the coronavirus outbreak as a wild card in the decision.

The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the
dollar at 0551 GMT.
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.410     109.51        +0.09
 Sing dlr               1.382       1.3699        -0.85
 Taiwan dlr             30.086      30.207        +0.40
 Korean won             1191.000    1187.4        -0.30
 Baht                   31.120      30.95         -0.55
 Peso                   50.870      50.71         -0.31
 Rupiah                 13715.000   13705         -0.07
 Rupee                  71.258      71.25         -0.01
 Ringgit                4.122       4.109         -0.32
 Yuan                   7.005       6.9982        -0.10
 Change so far in 2020                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2019      Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.410     108.61        -0.73
 Sing dlr               1.382       1.3444        -2.69
 Taiwan dlr             30.086      30.106        +0.07
 Korean won             1191.000    1156.40       -2.91
 Baht                   31.120      29.91         -3.89
 Peso                   50.870      50.65         -0.43
 Rupiah                 13715.000   13880         +1.20
 Rupee                  71.258      71.38         +0.17
 Ringgit                4.122       4.0890        -0.80
 Yuan                   7.005       6.9632        -0.60
 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu
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