February 8, 2019 / 5:59 AM / in 4 months

EM ASIA FX-Most subdued as trade war, global growth fears darken mood

    * Currencies largely muted as dollar propped by safe-haven
    * Baht weakens most; Thai politics in spotlight 
    * Economists see another rate cut by RBI 

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Aditya Soni
    Feb 8 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies were subdued against
a stronger dollar on Friday, weighed by fresh doubts the United
States and China can clinch a trade deal before the March 1
deadline and downgrades on global growth.
    Markets awaiting progress on U.S.-China trade talks were
dismayed when President Donald Trump said he did not plan to
meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping before the deadline
to achieve a trade deal.
    "Market players see less chance of a deal and higher
likelihood of more tariffs on China's shipments to the U.S.,"
Maybank said in a client note. 
    Sentiment was further soured by fears about rampant slowdown
in global growth as the European Commission slashed its
forecasts for euro zone economic growth this year and next
citing trade frictions and domestic challenges.
    Boosted by demand for safe-haven assets, the dollar index
 firmed about 0.1 percent to a near two-week high, putting
pressure on Asian currencies. 
    The Thai baht weakened 0.4 percent to a more than
one-week low and led losses in the region.
    Thailand's royalty made an unprecedented move into politics
on Friday when the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn was
declared a prime ministerial candidate in a March 24 general
election, registration papers showed. 
    One of her leading opponents will be Prime Minister Prayuth
Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta, who also announced
his candidacy on Friday.
    "That has thrown the entire elections into a turmoil, the
market has been processing in that the military incumbent had a
good chance of winning this race. But the princess is a strong
candidate and that definitely has an impact on the currency,"
said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA.
    The Indian rupee strengthened 0.3 percent, the most among
its peers, helped by a sharp drop in oil prices, which would
take some pressure off the world's third-biggest oil importer.
    The Philippine peso firmed 0.1 percent. The
Philippine central bank kept its benchmark interest rate steady
for a second straight meeting on Thursday.
    The Korean won, Malaysian ringgit and
Indonesian rupiah posted meagre gains.
    The Chinese yuan and Taiwan dollar did
not trade due to market holidays.
    India's central bank on Thursday unexpectedly lowered
interest rates and, as anticipated, changed its policy stance to
"neutral" to boost a slowing economy after a sharp slide in the
inflation rate.
    The rupee had weakened immediately after the decision, but
ended the day 0.1 percent higher. 
    The central new bank's governor Shaktikanta Das also hinted
that there is more room to cut rates if inflation remains muted,
sounding a markedly more dovish tone from the central bank.
    "A decisive change in tone, with even the perpetual hawk
(Dr. Patra) joining the rate cut camp, gives further credence to
our view that one more cut is on its way," Madhavi Arora,
economist at Edelweiss Securities, said in a client note.
    "And with the tone of the policy assertively dovish, we
continue to see one more 25 bps cut coming in April," she added.
    The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against
the dollar at 0516 GMT.
 Change on the day at   0516 GMT                  
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.700     109.8         +0.09
 Sing dlr               1.356       1.3562        -0.01
 Korean won             1123.800    1124.1        +0.03
 Baht                   31.380      31.25         -0.41
 Peso                   52.060      52.09         +0.06
 Rupiah                 13965.000   13970         +0.04
 Rupee                  71.290      71.45         +0.22
 Ringgit                4.069       4.0715        +0.06
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2018      Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.700     109.56        -0.13
 Sing dlr               1.356       1.3627        +0.46
 Taiwan dlr             30.745      30.733        -0.04
 Korean won             1123.800    1115.70       -0.72
 Baht                   31.380      32.55         +3.73
 Peso                   52.060      52.47         +0.79
 Rupiah                 13965.000   14375         +2.94
 Rupee                  71.290      69.77         -2.13
 Ringgit                4.069       4.1300        +1.50
 Yuan                   6.734       6.8730        +2.06

 (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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