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EM ASIA FX-Asian currencies drift below recent highs, focus on Trump speech

    * Singapore dollar eases from previous day's 3-month high
    * Thai baht slips from previous day's near 4-month high
    * Focus on Trump's speech to Congress

 (Updates prices, adds text)
    By Masayuki Kitano
    SINGAPORE, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Asian currencies were little
changed against the dollar on Tuesday, holding below recent
highs, as investors awaited U.S. President Donald Trump's speech
to Congress for clues on tax reform and infrastructure spending.
    The Singapore dollar held steady at 1.4036 per U.S.
dollar, having retreated from Monday's high of 1.4000, its
strongest level since Nov. 10.
    The Thai baht slipped 0.1 percent to 34.90, and was
off Monday's four-month peak of 34.83.
    Most Asian currencies have risen against the dollar since
the start of 2017, as uncertainty about Trump's economic
policies dragged down the greenback.
    The focus now is on whether Trump's speech to Congress on
Tuesday will provide the catalyst for a bounce in the dollar, or
open the way for further losses against emerging Asian
    Market participants will be watching for details on possible
fiscal stimulus steps, such as tax cuts and infrastructure
spending, as well as any comments related to trade policy amid
growing concerns about rising protectionism in the United
    If Trump's speech offers "no clarity on the size and the
timing" of fiscal policy plans, the dollar's recent weakness
versus Asian currencies is likely to persist, said Roy Teo,
senior FX strategist for ABN AMRO Bank.
    Trump said on Monday he would propose a budget that would
ramp up spending on defence, but seek savings elsewhere to pay
for it. The president is also expected to discuss his plans for
infrastructure spending in a speech to Congress on Tuesday.

    Trump's decisions on trade policy will be crucial to the
outlook for emerging Asian currencies, said Jasslyn Yeo, global
market strategist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
    "Any indication that Trump will be imposing across-the-board
tariffs and/or implementing a border-adjusted tax will be
negative for EM Asia FX," Yeo said.
    "Across the board tariffs and border-adjusted tax, however
are not our base case. As of now, we are expecting the Trump
administration to selectively target certain industries and
products through anti-dumping and countervailing duties," Yeo
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview
with Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures" programme that
he was still "studying very carefully" a House Republican border
tax adjustment plan that would levy a 20 percent tax on imports
to encourage more U.S.-based production and exports.
    "There are certain aspects that the president likes about
the concept of a border-adjusted tax, there are certain aspects
that he's very concerned about," Mnuchin said.

  Change on the day at   0418 GMT                    
  Currency              Latest bid   Previous     Pct
                                          day    Move
  Japan yen                 112.60     112.74   +0.12
  Sing dlr                  1.4036     1.4041   +0.04
  Taiwan dlr                30.650     30.650   -0.00
  Korean won               1132.80    1133.70   +0.08
  Baht                       34.90      34.85   -0.14
  Peso                      50.260     50.270   +0.02
  Rupiah                     13340      13341   +0.01
  Rupee                      66.78      66.71   -0.10
  Ringgit                   4.4430     4.4370   -0.14
  Yuan                      6.8692     6.8700   +0.01
  Change so far                                      
 in 2017                                       
  Currency              Latest bid   End prev     Pct
                                         year    Move
  Japan yen                 112.60     117.07   +3.97
  Sing dlr                  1.4036     1.4490   +3.23
  Taiwan dlr                30.650     32.279   +5.31
  Korean won               1132.80    1207.70   +6.61
  Baht                       34.90      35.80   +2.59
  Peso                       50.26      49.72   -1.07
  Rupiah                     13340      13470   +0.97
  Rupee                      66.78      67.92   +1.71
  Ringgit                   4.4430     4.4845   +0.93
  Yuan                      6.8692     6.9467   +1.13

 (Reporting by Masayuki Kitano; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)