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EMERGING MARKETS-Taiwan shares slide 3% as fresh COVID-19 outbreaks stoke recovery concerns

    * China April factory output slows, retail sales miss forecasts
    * Thai Q1 GDP contracts less than expected

    May 17 (Reuters) - Taiwan stocks closed 3% lower on Monday, leading declines
across most of Asia's emerging markets, as curbs to contain new COVID-19
outbreaks fuelled worries that the region's 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.
    In neighbouring South Korea and Japan, shares closed under
1% lower. The Indonesian stock market, which resumed trade after a
break, fell 1.4%. 
    Pockets of COVID-19 infections in Taiwan and Singapore, both hailed for
their success in containing previous outbreaks, and worries over more contagious
variants, including 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 (COVID-19) 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," said Robert Carnell, the Asia-Pacific head of
research for ING.
    Gold prices climbed to their highest in more than three months, while
the dollar also firmed, weighing on the region's risk-sensitive
currencies.
    A key set of 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.

    In Thailand, the planning agency downgraded its annual growth forecasts for
the second time this year due to the latest wave of infections, even as the
economy contracted less than expected in the first quarter.
    Stocks fell 0.4%, while the baht dipped more than 0.2%.
    "Asia, lagging well behind the vaccination race, may see its delayed return
to normality weighing on its GDP growth prospects this year," Carnell added. 
    Singapore shares, however, climbed 0.7% after suffering their
sharpest fall in 11 months on Friday. The city-state has now closed schools to
combat the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
    On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve will release minutes from an April
meeting that predated last week's higher-than-expected inflation data, with the
market looking 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 made some in the market predict that
policymakers will be forced to act sooner than expected, making the dollar more
attractive.
    
    HIGHLIGHTS:
    ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields up 2.9 basis points to 6.434%
    ** Indonesia's Gojek, Tokopedia merge to create tech champion 
  Asia stock indexes and currencies at   0647 GMT
 COUNTRY      FX RIC       FX       FX     INDEX    STOCKS    STOCKS
                           DAILY %  YTD %           DAILY %   YTD %
 Japan                     +0.12    -5.47           -0.92     1.39
 China                     -0.01    +1.40           0.87      1.37
 India                     +0.08    -0.22           0.98      6.01
 Indonesia                 -0.60    -1.68           -1.43     -2.10
 Malaysia                  -0.12    -2.62           0.17      -2.58
 Philippines               -0.02    +0.52           0.23      -11.99
 S.Korea                   -0.55    -4.28           -0.60     9.08
 Singapore                 -0.17    -1.03           0.66      8.13
 Taiwan                    -0.06    +1.62           -2.99     4.22
 Thailand                  -0.22    -4.65           -0.44     6.43
 
 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar and
Rashmi Aich)
  
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