Emerging Markets - Most Asian currencies steady ahead of Fed minutes; stocks inch up


BANGKOK (Reuters): Most Asian currencies struggled for direction while equities edged higher on Wednesday ahead of the minutes of the US Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting that could provide more insight into the central bank's interest rate trajectory.

The Indonesian rupiah was largely unchanged after the country's central bank kept interest rates steady . The currency was last down 0.1% while equities advanced 0.6%.

Bank Indonesia said the current benchmark level was consistent with keeping inflation in check and maintaining the stability of the rupiah. The currency had dropped to four-year lows against the US dollar in April prompting the central bank to raise rates.

"We think interest rates will be left unchanged over the next few months, but there is a good chance of a cut before the end of the year," Gareth Leather, senior Asia economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

The timing of a rate cut will be largely determined by the rupiah's performance, Leather added.

Investors kept to the sidelines ahead of the release of the Fed minutes, which could offer more cues on the timing and extent of possible rate cuts this year.

Fed policymakers have indicated that they might need to see further evidence of inflation slowing down before cutting rates.

"There is not much of a catalyst right now. We should still expect the dollar-Asia to trade in the recent range until a bigger catalyst comes along," said Christopher Wong, a FX strategist at OCBC.

Fed fund futures imply about a 66% chance of a rate cut by September and have 43 basis points of easing priced in for this year. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3%.

Shares in Taiwan climbed more than 1% to hit a record high ahead of AI chipmaker Nvidia's quarterly results. An interest rate decision from the Bank of Korea is also on investors' radar this week.

The central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged. South Korea's won and equities were largely unchanged. - Reuters

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