EMERGING MARKETS-Asian currencies tepid as investors stay wary of possible Fed hikes

      Malaysia Feb CPI higher than forecast

      Singapore Fed industrial data expected

      Equities mixed, Indonesian benchmark soars

    By Jaskiran Singh
       March 24 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies were subdued on Friday, while Indonesian
rupiah opened higher after two-day hiatus, as investors remained unnerved on U.S. Federal
Reserve's mixed comments on future rate hikes, amid recent banking turmoil.
    The Thai baht and the Malaysian ringgit depreciated 0.2% each for the day,
but both were on track for their second week of gains. The Indonesian rupiah hit its
highest level since early February after a two-day break.
    Malaysia's consumer price index for February rose 3.7%, which was faster than expected.

    The Philippine peso was heading for a 0.7% weekly gain but remained unmoved for the
session, while the South Korean won depreciated by about 1%.
    Weighing on emerging markets, strong U.S. jobs data indicated that the world's largest
economy remained healthy amid recent financial market turbulence, raising bets that the Federal
Reserve might eye two more interest rate hikes this year.
    "We see Asia as a safe haven amid the current turbulence, thanks to an absence of material
macroeconomic or financial imbalances, which should help the region outperform," said ANZ
    After the Fed's 25 basis points (bps) hike this week, markets are pricing in around 80 bps
of cuts by year-end.
    Fund flows to Asia would be encouraged by that prospective fall in U.S. interest rates and
by Asia's favourable growth differential with the U.S. and the boost from China emerging from
pandemic controls, the ANZ analysts added.
    Similarly, investors are also seen turning less bearish on most Asian emerging currencies as
major central banks looked to pause policy tightening amid fear of a larger banking crisis.

    Seeing inflationary concerns, Taiwan's central bank in a surprise move raised its policy
rate by 12.5 bps, its fifth rate hike since a tightening cycle began in March 2022.
    The Taiwan dollar remained steady while the benchmark stock index inched
    Singapore is due to release industrial production figures for February later on Friday.
    "We expect another month of contraction in February, mirroring the struggles in non-oil
domestic exports (NODX) as global demand remains soft," analysts at ING wrote in a note to
clients. "We could see industrial production stay weak in the near term and weigh on Singapore's
growth prospects."
    Equities in Asia took mixed positions, with stocks in Jakarta rising more than 1%
while Malaysian benchmark dipped 0.5%.
    ** Thailand's $98 bln 2024 budget to be delayed over election 
    ** Philippines says maritime friction with China can be addressed via diplomacy
    ** Hong Kong on watch for any 'spillover' from US regional banks
 Asia stock                                                           
 indexes and                                                          
 currencies at                                                        
 COUNTRY        FX          FX        FX        INDEX    STOCKS       STOCKS
                  RIC         DAILY     YTD %              DAILY %      YTD %
 Japan                      +0.37     +0.60              -0.39        4.96
 China                      -0.26     +0.78              -0.54        5.81
 India                      +0.00     +0.56              -0.16        -5.83
 Indonesia                  +0.99     +2.47              1.03         -1.31
 Malaysia                   -0.18     -0.54              -0.51        -6.13
 Philippines                -0.04     +2.49              0.49         0.03
 S.Korea                    -0.98     -2.05              -0.76        7.58
 Singapore                  -0.13     +0.91              0.02         -0.97
 Taiwan                     -0.00     +1.10              0.25         12.49
 Thailand                   -0.23     +1.42              -0.05        -4.54

 (Reporting by Jaskiran Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bradley Perrett)