EMERGING MARKETS-Philippine peso leads Asia FX lower; Fed decision in focus

      Thailand sees no impact from global banking woes

      Singapore benchmark hits near two-week high

      Markets in Indonesia closed for public holiday

    By Jaskiran Singh
       March 22 (Reuters) - Philippine peso fell most among subdued Asian
currencies on Wednesday, as investors awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve's
interest rate decision.
    While most Asian currencies were either flat or saw minimal movements, the
peso was on track to snap a five-day rally, down 0.6%.
    "In terms of fundamentals, the country (Philippines) has twin deficits, a
fiscal deficit and a current account deficit... this tends to weigh on the
currency," said Shaun Lim, FX Strategist at Maybank.
    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is also expected to hike rates by 25
basis points (bps) on Thursday.
    While bigger economies Malaysia and Indonesia paused their respective
rate-hike cycle, Lim said the same might not be a situation for BSP due to the
twin deficits.
    "(I) am not so certain on a pause, given that the hikes are a way for them
(BSP) to defend the strength of peso."
    The Thai baht inched higher after depreciating in the earlier part
of the session.
    Thailand is expected to hold elections in mid-May, with the polls shaping up
to be a battle between a pro-military conservative grouping against the largest
opposition party.
    The poll-bound country forecasted the economy to grow 3% to 4% this year and
expected to see up to 27 million foreign tourists this year. 
    "There could be some volatility (on baht) for the time on account of
political risks, but on longer term, our view is still positive, because they
are one of the economies with greater linkages to China, both in terms of trade
and travel," said Lim.
    Elsewhere, the Singapore dollar and Malaysian ringgit were
flat. The South Korean won gained 0.3%.
    Globally, traders are focussed on whether the Fed will keep to its hawkish
path to fight soaring inflation or pause interest rate hikes with markets
pricing in about roughly 86% chance of a 25 bp hike, showed the CME FedWatch
    Asian equities mirrored overnight Wall Street gains, as fears over liquidity
in the banking sector receded.
    Shares in Singapore hit their highest in nearly two weeks, after
gaining up to 1.6%. Stocks in Manila also hit their highest since March
13, while Thai benchmark rose 0.5%.   
    ** UPDATE 3-Indonesia passes jobs decree into law, easing investment
    ** ANALYSIS-Some new faces but old divisions to haunt Thailand's May
    ** China weighs cut of about 2.5% in 2023 crude steel output -sources 
 Asia stock                                                     
 indexes and                                                    
 currencies at                                                  
 COUNTRY        FX         FX        FX       INDEX    STOCKS   STOCKS
                  RIC        DAILY     YTD %             DAILY    YTD %
                           %                           %        
 Japan                     +0.05     -1.00             1.93     5.26
 China          <CNY=CFXS  -0.15     +0.16             0.08     5.47
 India                     +0.00     +0.08             0.14     -5.38
 Indonesia                 0.00      +1.47             1.20     -2.32
 Malaysia                  +0.04     -1.52             0.06     -5.89
 Philippines               -0.59     +1.92             0.64     0.09
 S.Korea        <KRW=KFTC  +0.28     -3.30             1.15     8.02
 Singapore                 -0.06     +0.25             1.44     -0.97
 Taiwan                    +0.16     +0.64             1.59     11.48
 Thailand                  +0.09     +0.58             0.46     -5.05

 (Reporting by Jaskiran Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)