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BENGALURU: The Malaysian ringgit and Thai baht led losses among emerging Asian markets on Tuesday, as an elevated U.S. dollar and recession worries undermined the currencies.

The ringgit was down 0.1% to hit its weakest since March 2017 while the Thai baht also slipped 0.1%. The Indian rupee hit a seventh straight session of record lows as well, on dollar strength.

"I think the main driver for Asian currencies remains the USD which moved up recently from demands for safe haven assets amid concerns over economic recession," said Pon Panichpibool, markets strategist at Krung Thai Bank.

The dollar, which initially paused at a two-decade peak after markets pared back their bets on the size of U.S. rate hikes, continued its ascent as a series of aggressive rate hikes and fears of a possible recession drove investors towards safe haven assets.

"Concerns over the COVID-19 situation in China and the worsening trade deficit on higher energy import bill, coupled with Bank of Thailand's (BOT) commitment to a gradual and steady hiking cycle are adding pressure to the baht," Barclays analysts observed.

Regional currencies were also pressured by a rise in oil prices overnight as the greenback's retreat from multi-year highs supported buying interest and on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate hike may be less than expected.

The BOT is the only other emerging market central bank in the region, besides Bank Indonesia, to hold interest rates at a record low despite surging inflation.

However, central bank officials have signalled that the BOT was highly likely to tighten monetary policy at their August meeting.

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"I think the BOT will start with 25 basis point hike unless they see a rise in medium term inflation expectations and face severe fund outflows and volatility in the baht," he added.

Bank Indonesia is likely to hold interest rates at a record low when it meets on Thursday, a Reuters poll found.

However, one in three economists expected BI to hike rates by 25 basis points to shore up the rupiah and stand guard against capital outflows stemming from aggressive U.S. rate hikes.

Stocks in the region also fell after taking cues from a weak Wall Street session on Monday.

Equities in Thailand fell 1.1% to lead losses, followed by a 0.3% decline in South Korean stocks

HIGHLIGHTS:

** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields rise 4.2 basis points to hit near 4-week high of 7.434%

** China's Tianjin halts some businesses in fresh COVID curbs

** China raises loan-support efforts for developers amid mortgage boycott - Reuters


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