EM ASIA FX-Most currencies slip as easing bias by regional central banks keeps dollar in favour

By Rashmi Ashok

* S.Korean won, Indonesian rupiah weaken more than 1% each * Dollar resurgence, easing bias in Asia to hurt AsiaFX - analyst * Philippines suspends trading of equities and bonds indefinitely (Adds text, updates prices) By Rashmi Ashok March 17 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies weakened against the dollar on Tuesday, as an easing bias by most central banks in the region continued to hurt demand for relatively risky regional units as opposed to safer options such as the greenback. The won fell further, a day after the Bank of Korea (BOK) slashed interest rates by 50 basis points in its biggest easing since the global financial crisis. The currency shed nearly 1.5% to its lowest level since Feb. 29, 2016, after a 0.5% drop on Monday. "Despite the Fed lowering interest rates to near zero, the U.S. dollar has remained relatively resolute, held up by the surging demand for the greenback amid this period of heightened risk aversion," said Han Tan, a Malaysia-based market analyst at FXTM. "The dollar's resurgence, coupled with the policy easing bias across Asia, is expected to exert downward pressure on regional currencies over the near-term as Asian economies continue battling the ill-effects of COVID-19." In a bid to ease heightened funding stress involved with the rising cost of raising U.S. dollar funds in Korean financial markets, officials said they would announce measures on Wednesday, but did not elaborate on what they might be. Since the start of the week, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Hong Kong's central banks have announced rate cuts and other easing measures, while the Taiwanese and Indonesian central banks are expected to follow suit on Thursday. The rupiah slipped more than 1% to a 16-month low, while the Taiwan dollar traded a shade weaker. Despite the slew of easing measures, markets remained sceptical about whether they would be enough to help severely disrupted supply chains and plummeting tourism across the globe recover. After the U.S. Federal Reserve's surprise 100 basis point rate cut on Sunday, Wall Street indexes tumbled overnight in their biggest drop since the crash of 1987. However, U.S. futures rose in early Asian trade on Tuesday. Trade across broader Asia remained volatile, with most equities in the region trading in the red. The Indian rupee was the only currency making modest gains in the region, trading 0.3% higher after its central bank kept rates on hold on Monday. PHILIPPINES SUSPENDS TRADE IN EQUITIES AND FX The Philippines became the first country to suspend trading in stocks and bonds indefinitely from Tuesday onwards, with authorities saying the move was aimed at protecting the safety of traders and staff. The country has put half the population under strict home quarantine since Monday, shut transport networks and closed businesses to contain the virus outbreak. Trading in the onshore peso was suspended until March 18, but its offshore counterpart eased slightly amid sharply lower volumes. The benchmark stock index has lost about 26% of its value since the start of the year. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0646 GMT. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 106.480 105.85 -0.59 Sing dlr 1.422 1.4204 -0.08 Taiwan dlr 30.225 30.220 -0.02 Korean won 1243.500 1226 -1.41 Baht 32.200 32.11 -0.28 Peso 51.620 51.5 -0.23 Rupiah 15100.000 14900 -1.32 Rupee 74.033 74.23 +0.27 Ringgit 4.331 4.307 -0.55 Yuan 7.001 6.9952 -0.08 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 106.480 108.61 +2.00 Sing dlr 1.422 1.3444 -5.43 Taiwan dlr 30.225 30.106 -0.39 Korean won 1243.500 1156.40 -7.00 Baht 32.200 29.91 -7.11 Peso 51.620 50.65 -1.88 Rupiah 15100.000 13880 -8.08 Rupee 74.033 71.38 -3.58 Ringgit 4.331 4.0890 -5.59 Yuan 7.001 6.9632 -0.54 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)