EMERGING MARKETS-Taiwan shares slide 3% as COVID-19 cases spike in Asia

    * South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Philippine shares down 1%
    * China April factory output slows, retail sales miss
    * Thai Q1 GDP contracts less than expected, annual growth

    By Nikhil Nainan
    May 17 (Reuters) - Taiwan stocks fell 3% on Monday, leading
declines across Asia's emerging markets as curbs to contain new
COVID-19 outbreaks fuelled worries a nascent economic recovery
will be derailed. 
    The island's premier looked to reassure investors that the
fundamentals of the trade-dependent economy remain strong as new
restrictions went into effect over the weekend. The Taiwan
dollar fell to a more than three-week low.
    In neighbouring South Korea and Japan,
shares fell around 1% each, mirrored by Southeast Asia peers,
the Philippines and Indonesia. 
    Pockets of COVID-19 infections in Taiwan and Singapore, both
hailed for their success in containing previous outbreaks, and
worries over more contagious variants, such as the one first
detected in India, have sent investors scattering for safer bets
such as gold and the U.S. dollar.
    "In short, if the numbers are going up, even if they are
still low, you don't have much time to nip this in the bud
before you could be dealing with an India-like situation,"
Robert Carnell, the Asia-Pacific head of research for ING said,
referring to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
    Gold prices are at their highest in more than three
months, while the dollar also firmed, weighing on the
region's risk-sensitive currencies.
    Singapore shares were flat as schools were shut down
to stem the rise in infections. The city-state's Straits Times
index suffered its sharpest fall in 11 months on Friday.

    Thailand's planning agency downgraded annual growth
forecasts for the second time this year due to the latest wave
of infections even as its economy contracted less than expected
in the first quarter.
    Thai stocks fell 1.1%, while the baht
dipped more than a fifth of a percent.
    Another set of key data from China showed factory output
growth slowed in April from the jump seen in the previous month
while retail sales missed analyst expectations, indicating more
pressure on the recovery in consumption.
    "Asia, lagging well behind the vaccination race, may see its
return to normality delayed weighing on its GDP growth prospects
this year," Carnell added. 
    U.S. Federal Reserve minutes, from an April meeting that
predated last week's higher-than-expected inflation data, are
due on Wednesday and are the next market focus for clues on the
Fed's thinking on rates.
    While the Fed has argued that a spike in inflation was
transitory, pledging to keep interest rates low, the rise has
some in the market predicting that policymakers will be forced
to act sooner than expected, making the dollar more attractive.
    ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields up 5.7 basis points
to 6.462%
    ** Singapore's biggest banks are among the top losers     
  Asia stock indexes and currencies at   0348 GMT
 COUNTRY      FX RIC      FX       FX     INDEX    STOCKS   STOCKS
                          DAILY %  YTD %           DAILY %  YTD %
 Japan                    +0.00    -5.58           -1.18    1.13
 China                    -0.01    +1.40           1.02     1.53
 India                    +0.00    -0.30           0.00     4.98
 Indonesia                -0.53    -1.61           -1.01    -1.68
 Malaysia                 -0.22    -2.71           0.61     -2.15
 Philippines              -0.14    +0.41           -0.89    -12.97
 S.Korea                  -0.35    -4.10           -0.93    8.72
 Singapore                -0.19    -1.04           0.04     7.47
 Taiwan                   -0.15    +1.53           -3.02    4.19
 Thailand                 -0.22    -4.65           -1.13    5.70
 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by
Himani Sarkar)