BENGALURU: South Korea and Thailand led Asia's emerging stock markets lower on Friday, as investors looked to the implementation of the $1.9 trillion of U.S. fiscal stimulus, while Taiwan's dollar advanced even as the central bank tried to rein it in.
Asian shares fell further by early afternoon with Indonesia and Thailand down around 1% and South Korea shedding 2%.
The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns around implementation of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's proposed package tempered global recovery hopes.
China reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months, with millions under lockdown, while details of U.S. aid did not stray from what was expected and doubts emerged over how the package would be pushed through.
"The ongoing success of the reflation narrative will depend on President-Elect Biden's ability to push his relief bill through Congress, and on a continued scaling up of the vaccination program," analysts at ANZ said.
Markets are "heavily positioned for success all round" and "there is little room for any disappointment," ANZ added.
Thai shares fell further as the country's central bank cautioned that the new wave of coronavirus cases could lead to a cut in growth forecast as outlook remained uncertain.
In Taiwan, the local dollar gained 1.7%. Since early December, the currency has appreciated 2.5%, posing a worry for the central bank that has been trying to balance between intervening too heavily in the market to avoid being labelled as a currency manipulator by the United States and keeping the unit competitive.
Taiwan relies heavily on electronics exports and the central bank is asking major exporters to spread out sales of foreign currency as a way to stem the local dollar's gains.
Indonesia's rupiah shed earlier gains to trade roughly flat. Earlier gains were supported by forecast-beating December exports and imports and the dropping of a controversial proposal to revise the central bank act.
The law had raised concerns last year about Bank Indonesia's independence - a worry for foreign investors who load up on local bonds for their high yield.
Bank of Korea (BOK) kept its base rate steady at a historic low of 0.5%, as expected. The won dipped and shares sharply fell as foreign investors booked profits.
Other currencies in the region relied on a stumbling dollar to trade flat to slightly higher after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Thursday that interest rates would not rise any time soon.
"Range-bound consolidation may be the default posture for most dollar-Asia pairs for now, although there is still some bias on the downside," analysts at OCBC said. - Reuters
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