EM ASIA FX-Most gain as rate cut expectations stall dollar

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

* Malaysian ringgit, Taiwan dollar lead gains * Indonesian rupiah hits more than 2-month low (Adds text, updates prices) By Shriya Ramakrishnan Feb 27 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies held ground on Thursday, as rising U.S. rate cut bets amid a spike in coronavirus cases beyond China prompted dollar buyers to take a pause. Fears of a pandemic mounted after the number of new coronavirus infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy and Iran emerging as epicentres of the rapidly spreading illness. Markets have priced in a 45.4% probability of a U.S. rate cut when the Federal Reserve meets in March, up from 6.7% a week earlier, according to the CME FedWatch tool. "We've started to price in action for the Fed," said Stuart Oakley, global head of flow FX at Nomura in Singapore. "That's probably put the kibosh on the dollar rallying more, but I think it's all fairly temporary to be honest ... The dollar will probably grind out some more strength at some point." The Taiwan dollar strengthened as much as 0.4% against the greenback and was set for a third straight session of gains. Taiwan raised its epidemic response level to the highest as it readied a $2 billion package to cushion the virus impact on its export-reliant economy, the official Central News Agency reported. The move will allow the government to tackle the virus outbreak in a much faster manner, the report added. The Malaysian ringgit advanced 0.3% to 4.21 per dollar, as risk appetite improved ahead of a long-awaited economic stimulus package, which the government is likely to announce later in the day. The Thai baht firmed 0.2%, while the Singapore dollar was flat. The South Korean won rose up to 0.6% after the central bank surprisingly kept interest rates unchanged. The currency later gave up the gains to trade slightly lower as the country reported its largest daily increase in new coronavirus cases. The Chinese yuan inched higher as the country reported the slowest daily increase in coronavirus deaths in almost a month. The Indonesian rupiah was the worst performer, weakening 0.4% to a more than two-month low. "It is catching up with losses in other regional currencies. Risk aversion sentiment could prompt investors to square carry trade positions," said Gao Qi, currency strategist - EM Asia at Scotiabank. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0559 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 110.040 110.42 +0.35 Sing dlr 1.397 1.3973 +0.04 Taiwan dlr 30.296 30.383 +0.29 Korean won 1217.000 1216.9 -0.01 Baht 31.800 31.85 +0.16 Peso 51.100 51.05 -0.10 Rupiah 13975.000 13925 -0.36 Rupee 71.640 71.64 +0.00 Ringgit 4.210 4.223 +0.31 Yuan 7.019 7.0230 +0.06 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 110.040 108.61 -1.30 Sing dlr 1.397 1.3444 -3.75 Taiwan dlr 30.296 30.106 -0.63 Korean won 1217.000 1156.40 -4.98 Baht 31.800 29.91 -5.94 Peso 51.100 50.65 -0.88 Rupiah 13975.000 13880 -0.68 Rupee 71.640 71.38 -0.36 Ringgit 4.210 4.0890 -2.87 Yuan 7.019 6.9632 -0.79 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)