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EMERGING MARKETS-Malaysian shares hit over 6-month low as COVID-19 cases, deaths mount

    * Malaysia shares set for worst week since January
    * Indonesia's rupiah set for worst week since February
    * Taiwan export orders in April surge for 14th straight month 

    May 21 (Reuters) - Malaysian shares fell to a more than six-month low on
Friday, as the country grappled with a record number of COVID-19 deaths and
infections, with the ringgit also touching a 1-1/2-month low even as other
regional currencies gained on a weaker dollar.
    The softer dollar trading around recent lows provided some respite to
investors that have largely adopted a cautious view, on rising infections in the
region and the eventual prospect that the U.S. Federal Reserve tapers stimulus. 
    Stocks in Kuala Lumpur were heading for their worst week since late
January, as the country reported a third day this week of a record number of
COVID-19 infections and deaths on Thursday. The ringgit recovered into
the session, gaining 0.1%.
    Indonesia's rupiah, which backs some of emerging markets'
highest-yielding debt, edged higher but it was set for its worst week in three
months. 
    "Asia is decidedly more subdued as caution rather than exuberance rules,"
said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at OANDA.
    In China, the Shanghai composite index fell 0.5%, while blue-chips
 were down close to 1%.
    The world's second-largest economy and one of the top consumers of
commodities earlier this week said, it will curb "unreasonable" increases in
commodity prices. 
    "China's inflation situation is strikingly at odds with the much-discussed
U.S. situation," Alvin Tan, RBC Capital Markets' head of Asia FX Strategy, said
in a client note.
    "Can there be a global inflationary cycle without Chinese inflation?"
    Taiwan's tech-heavy stock index climbed 1.6%, gaining ground from
last week's sell-off. The index's losses have nearly halved so far in May and is
now down close to 6%.
    The island reported a 42.6% jump in export orders in April, rising for a
14th straight month. The ministry expects orders in May to rise between 40.1%
and 44% from a year earlier even as the country is facing a spike in cases.

    "While the recent national restrictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak
may dent domestic demand and confidence, external demand appears in rude health
and should buffer the negative growth impact this quarter," Tan added.

    HIGHLIGHTS: 
    ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields rose 2.9 basis points to 6.519%​​ 
    ** Top losers in Malaysia include Axiata Group Bhd and Petronas
Dagangan Bhd <PETR.KL
  Asia stock indexes and currencies at   0633 GMT
 COUNTRY       FX RIC    FX       FX     INDEX    STOCKS   STOCKS
                         DAILY %  YTD %           DAILY %  YTD %
 Japan                   +0.01    -5.06           0.78     3.18
 China         <CNY=CFX  +0.02    +1.46           -0.53    0.44
               S>                                          
 India                   +0.14    +0.09           1.39     8.10
 Indonesia               +0.07    -2.23           -0.52    -3.54
 Malaysia                +0.10    -2.85           -1.36    -4.51
 Philippines             -0.17    +0.25           0.03     -13.17
 S.Korea       <KRW=KFT  +0.44    -3.62           -0.19    9.85
               C>                                          
 Singapore               +0.05    -0.71           0.17     9.54
 Taiwan                  +0.37    +2.06           1.62     10.65
 Thailand                +0.00    -4.53           0.03     7.29
 
 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore
and Rashmi Aich)
  
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