Asian FX tepid; Thai baht gains ahead of likely rate hike



* Thai baht at highest level since July 1

* Bank of Thailand seen hiking by 25bps - Reuters poll

* Philippine peso down as much as 0.4%

* Philippine Q2 GDP grows less than expected

By Sameer Manekar

Aug 9 (Reuters) - Asian currencies were subdued on Tuesday, as the U.S. dollar remained flat ahead of July inflation data, while the baht scaled to a five-week high with investor focus on a central bank meeting that is expected to kick-start Thailand's tightening cycle.

The Philippine peso PHP= eased 0.3% on slower-than-expected economic growth rate of 7.4% in the second quarter, giving the central bank more reason to further tighten monetary policy to curb inflation.

With inflation near a four-year high, the market is widely expecting a bigger hike on Aug. 18 by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Analysts at Goldman Sachs, ING and Barclays expect a 50-bps hike by BSP.

Analysts at Dutch bank ING expect the BSP to maintain its hawkish bias for the rest of the year despite a disappointing growth report even as triple threats of inflation, rising borrowing costs and high debt-to-GDP ratio prove to be headwinds for the economy.

"We believe, however, that BSP may dial down the magnitude of tightening, resorting to 25-bps rate hikes for the remainder of the 2022 policy meetings," ING analysts said in a note.

The BSP's 125-basis-points cumulative hike since the start of the year has helped stabilise the Philippine peso, which lost more than 6% in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar index =USD remained flat ahead of inflation data due later in the week.

"Given the persistent wage pressures in the U.S. and strong domestic demand, we remain conscious that (U.S. inflation) data may validate the need for more tightening than currently priced," analysts at BNP Paribas said.

"Although commodity prices have declined, the labour market in the U.S. remains very tight and wage pressures are strong. It may be too soon still to call for rates volatility to reduce, or for Fed rate expectations to continue to soften, in our view," they added.

Elsewhere, South Korea's won KRW=KFTC , Indonesia's rupiah IDR= , the Taiwan dollar TWD=TP and the Malaysian ringgit MYR= all drifted close to their previous session's levels to trade flat.

In Thailand, the baht THB=TH appreciated up to 0.4% to 35.420 per dollar, its highest level since July 1. The Bank of Thailand is widely expected to hike its key interest rate by 25 basis points on Wednesday.

"While we doubt the extent of economic recovery has been sufficient to ease the BoT's concerns, we think the jump in inflation expectations is likely to force the central bank's hand," analysts at Barclays said. They expect a 25-bps hike on Wednesday.

Regional equities were mixed, with the Philippine benchmark .PSI losing 0.3%, while shares in Indonesia .JKSE , Malaysia .KLSE , South Korea .KS11 advanced between 0.2% and 0.7%.

Markets in India .NSEI INR=IN and Singapore .STI were closed for holiday.

HIGHLIGHTS:

** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields edge higher to 7.104%

** Indonesia govt sees 2022 GDP growth at 5% to 5.2% range

** India's July fuel demand rises 6.1% year-on-year

Asia stock

indexes and

currencies

at 0630 GMT

COUNTRY

FX

FX

FX

INDEX

STOCKS

STOCKS

RIC

DAILY

YTD %

DAILY %

YTD %

%

Japan

JPY=

-0.04

-14.79

.N225 -0.88

-2.75 China

CNY=CFXS -0.04

-5.90

.SSEC 0.19

-10.90 India

INR=IN

+0.00

-6.69

.NSEI 0.73

0.99 Indonesia

IDR=

+0.12

-4.09

.JKSE 0.68

8.41 Malaysia

MYR=

+0.07

-6.51

.KLSE 0.12

-2.58 Philippines

PHP=

-0.25

-8.16

.PSI

-0.06

-9.72 S.Korea

KRW=KFTC +0.14

-8.89

.KS11 0.42

-15.92 Singapore

SGD=

-0.07

-2.17

.STI

-0.36

4.72 Taiwan

TWD=TP

+0.02

-7.72

.TWII 0.20

-17.39 Thailand

THB=TH

+0.30

-5.81

.SETI 0.54

-2.42
Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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