EMERGING MARKETS-Taiwan stocks lead losses in Asia on inflation fears, virus curbs
By Rashmi Ashok
May 11 (Reuters) - Tech-heavy equities in Taiwan and South Korea led losses in Asian markets on Tuesday, as investors were concerned over a potential spike in inflation, while rising COVID-19 cases and curbs in other parts of the region further dampened sentiment.
U.S. stocks toppled off record highs overnight as traders fretted that strong demand amid tight supply of basic materials could sharply accelerate consumer prices, with markets now on edge ahead of U.S. inflation data due later on Wednesday.
A spike in inflation could force the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than planned, which could put Asia's central banks in a tough spot, as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and lockdowns make it more difficult for lenders to play catch-up.
Shares in Taipei .TWII ended 3.8% lower in their worst session since March 19, 2020, as heavyweight chipmakers fell. The Taiwan dollar TWD=TP, heavily reliant on exports, weakened 0.4% to pull back from a near 24-year high scaled in the previous session.
Equities in Seoul .KS11 closed 1.2% lower, with the won KRW=KFTC weakened 0.5%.
In other parts of Asia, raging COVID-19 outbreaks continued to drag on markets, outweighing economic prints showing signs of recovery in the first quarter.
"A large portion of the ASEAN recovery rests on how the next two weeks play out across the region with the COVID-19," said Jeffrey Halley, market analyst at OANDA, noting various forms of restrictions implemented across the region.
Malaysia's stocks .KLSE were off 0.7% and the ringgit MYR= weakened 0.2%, after the country imposed a new nationwide lockdown to halt a third wave of infections, which is putting a strain on its healthcare system.
Data showed its economy contracted by a smaller-than-expected margin in the first quarter, supported by exports.
In Philippines, where partial lockdown measures were tightened last month, authorities detected its first two cases of a coronavirus variant initially identified in India, which some preliminary studies have shown spreads more easily.
Data showed Philippines' gross domestic product fell a larger-than-expected 4.2% in the March quarter, though sequential output figures showed a recovery was underway.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will hold a monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, where it is largely expected to keep rates unchanged at record lows, with comments on the impact of the latest curbs keenly watched.
Indonesia recently recorded cases of the variant first detected in India, leading to a ban on the traditional mass exodus where people visit relatives for the Eid al-Fitr festival. nL1N2MQ07G
** Top losers on FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kl Index .KLSE include Genting Malaysia GENM.KL down 3.17% and Genting GENT.KL down 2.04%
** Top losers on the Jakarta stock index .JKSE include Pt Dms Propertindo Tbk KOTA.JK and Perdana Bangun Pusaka Tbk PT KONI.JK, both down 6.99%
** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are up 2.5 basis points at 6.429% while 3-year benchmark yields are up 0.1 basis points at 5.023%
Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0738 GMT
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(Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)
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