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EMERGING MARKETS-Philippine stocks cheer record low rates, virus spike hits Singapore

    * Malaysia, Singapore await economic data
    * Doubts around Evergrande linger
    * Thailand markets shut

    By Shashwat Awasthi
    Sept 24 (Reuters) - Equities in the Philippines outshone
their emerging Asian peers on Friday after its central bank kept
interest rates at record lows, while stocks in Singapore were
hit as the city-state logged record COVID-19 cases.
    Manila's benchmark index added 0.7% and was set for
its fourth straight day of gains after Bangko Sentral ng
Pilipinas (BSP) on Thursday looked past increasing inflation
pressures to keep its monetary policy loose.
    The bank hopes low rates will spur an economic rebound in
the Philippines, which was forced to cut its 2021 growth outlook
last month as COVID-19 infections and lockdowns likely hurt its
third quarter performance.
    The BSP raised its average inflation forecasts for 2021
through 2023, but expects inflation to ease to 3.3% next year
from a forecast 4.4% this year.
    "With headline inflation slowly returning to the BSP's
inflation target band of 2%-4%... and slow vaccination progress
likely to weigh on activity through year-end, we expect the BSP
to keep the policy stance accommodative for the rest of the
year," Goldman Sachs analysts said.
    They added that BSP would be patient in normalising policy
and expect the central bank's policy rate to be on hold until
late 2022.
    Singapore's FTSE Strait Times index gave up 0.3%,
while South Korea's Kospi fell as much as 0.2% before
trading flat, after daily COVID-19 cases hit record highs in
both nations.
    Singapore, which has inoculated more than 80% of its
population, has seen a spike in cases recently after it relaxed
some curbs, prompting it to pause further reopening.
    The country's manufacturing data for August was also due at
0500 GMT.
    Regional currencies were mostly flat to lower against the
U.S. dollar, with investors still wary of the fate of debt-laden
property developer China Evergrande and its potential
fallout on the Chinese economy.
    Evergrande bondholders were in limbo as time ticked away on
an interest payment deadline, while some worried it might be
roughly a month before the situation becomes clearer.

    Malaysian stocks dropped 0.6% as industrial firms
weighed, and gave up almost all the gains made in the previous
session. The country will report inflation data for August at
0400 GMT.
    Most regional share markets were set for a muted weekly
performance. 
    Investors have largely taken the U.S. Federal Reserve's
tapering plans in their stride. The central bank said on
Wednesday it will likely begin reducing its monthly bond
purchases as soon as November and signalled interest rate
increases may follow more quickly than expected.
    "It seems that the Fed has prepared markets well for a
tapering move by year-end," said Yeap Jun Rong, a strategist at
IG.
    "A shift towards the normalisation of monetary policies also
appears to be deemed as a vote of confidence for the strength in
the economy ahead."
    
    HIGHLIGHTS:
    ** Malaysia's 10-year benchmark yield is up 4
basis points at 3.395%.
    ** Singapore's 10-year benchmark yield is up 4.3
basis points at 1.486%.
    ** The top loser on Malaysia's benchmark index was Hartalega
Holdings, down 2.5%.
    
    
       Asia stock indexes and                       
      currencies at 0311 GMT                      
 COUNTRY   FX RIC      FX     FX    INDE  STOCKS  STOCK
                     DAILY   YTD %   X    DAILY   S YTD
                       %                    %       %
  Japan              -0.08   -6.48  <.N2   1.89   10.04
                                    25>           
  China   <CNY=CFXS  -0.03   +1.03  <.SS   0.11   4.98
              >                     EC>           
  India              +0.00   -0.78  <.NS   0.00   27.47
                                    EI>           
 Indones             +0.00   -1.40  <.JK   0.17   2.91
   ia                               SE>           
 Malaysi             +0.00   -3.83  <.KL  -0.61   -5.98
    a                               SE>           
 Philipp             -0.20   -4.74  <.PS   0.57   -2.60
  ines                               I>           
 S.Korea  <KRW=KFTC  -0.19   -7.77  <.KS  -0.03   8.81
              >                     11>           
 Singapo             -0.07   -2.14  <.ST  -0.21   7.95
   re                                I>           
 Taiwan              +0.20   +2.76  <.TW   1.14   17.24
                                    II>           
    

    
 (Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da
Costa)
  
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