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EMERGING MARKETS-Asian shares, FX mostly on backfoot as investors flee to safer havens

    * Thai c.bank rate decision due around 0700 GMT
    * South Korean shares slide for 4th straight day
    * Indonesian rupiah weakens the most

    By Shruti Sonal
    March 24 (Reuters) - Emerging Asian shares slid on Wednesday
as concerns over the latest COVID-19 wave in Europe and
potential U.S. tax hikes sapped risk appetite, while most
regional currencies weakened as the dollar neared four-month
highs.
    Benchmark indexes in Indonesia and Taiwan
fell nearly 1% each, while South Korean equities
declined for a fourth straight day. 
    Germany extended its lockdown and Norway postponed its
reopening plan on Tuesday, while rising cases remained a concern
for countries like India and the Philippines.

    "This brings back concerns of growth momentum being derailed
as some bigger countries may need to delay the reopening of
their economies, travel borders," Maybank analysts wrote in a
research note.
    Impediments on the roll-out of vaccines remained, further
dampening the mood.
    Hong Kong temporarily suspended COVID-19 vaccinations using
two batches of the treatment developed by Pfizer and
BioNTech citing defective packaging, while a U.S.
health agency said AstraZeneca Plc may have included
outdated information in the results of its U.S. trial data.

    Wall Street ended lower overnight as U.S. Treasury Secretary
Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy remains in crisis from the
pandemic even as she defended developing plans for future tax
increases to pay for new public investments.
    Riskier regional currencies mostly weakened as the
safe-haven U.S. dollar gained, with analysts pointing to a
"risk-off" sentiment in the market.
    The Indonesian rupiah and South Korean won
declined the most, falling 0.4% each.  
    Thai shares shed 0.1%, but outperformed most
regional peers, as the country's cabinet on Tuesday approved
financial measures worth 350 billion baht ($11.31 billion) to
help businesses cope with the impact of the
pandemic.
    The Thai baht dropped 0.2% ahead of a monetary
policy meeting later in the day, at which the Bank of Thailand
is expected to leave its key rate at a record low, but will
likely cut its outlook for economic growth.
    Mizuho Bank analysts said they would welcome any central
bank comments on their approach to recent market volatility.
    
    
  Asia stock indexes and currencies                         
 at   0403 GMT                                        
 COUNTRY  FX RIC          FX     FX    INDEX  STOCKS  STOCKS
                       DAILY  YTD %            DAILY   YTD %
                           %                       %  
 Japan                 +0.04  -4.87           -1.41    4.16
 China                 -0.10  +0.09            -1.22   -2.97
 India                 +0.00  +0.89            -0.55    5.38
 Indones               -0.38  -2.80            -0.87    3.66
 ia                                                   
 Malaysi               -0.12  -2.55            -0.04   -2.00
 a                                                    
 Philipp               +0.03  -1.33            -0.26   -9.95
 ines                                                 
 S.Korea               -0.22  -4.06            -0.36    4.19
 Singapo               -0.10  -1.82            -0.15    9.96
 re                                                   
 Taiwan                -0.13  -0.13            -0.84    8.89
 Thailan               -0.16  -3.39            -0.14    7.78
 d                                                    
 

 (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; Editing by Ana
Nicolaci da Costa)
  
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