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EM ASIA FX-Asian currencies firm as dovish Fed weighs on dollar

By Shreya Mariam Job

* Taiwan dollar hits strongest level in near 1-1/2 years * Philippine rate decision awaited * S.Korean won snaps three straight sessions of losses (Adds text, updates prices) By Shreya Mariam Job Dec 12 (Reuters) - Asian currencies firmed on Thursday against a weaker dollar that was pressured by dovish comments from the Federal Reserve after the U.S. central bank pushed back expectations of a rate hike anytime soon. In its final policy meeting of a tumultuous year, when it was spurred to cut interest rates three times to forestall a slowdown fuelled largely by President Donald Trump's trade war, the U.S. central bank struck a remarkably sanguine tone, confident the actions it had taken so far are working. The dovish remarks by the Fed put pressure on the greenback, sending the dollar index to a four-month low, providing support to emerging Asian currencies. "Powell has focused on sanguine inflationary trends ... whether we look at inflation expectations or even the Fed's own projections on core personal consumption expenditure, "sustained" (rise in inflation) isn't happening anytime soon, if at all," Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone said in a note. The Korean won strengthened the most in the region after it firmed 0.7%, wiping out weakness logged earlier this week. Investor sentiment also improved after the senior deputy governor of the Bank of Korea said the central bank expects global uncertainties to ease further. Meanwhile, the Taiwan dollar firmed as much as 0.6% to its strongest level since July 2018. However, the rest of the Asian currencies witnessed only modest gains, given the Dec. 15 deadline for imposition of new tariffs on Chinese good by the United States. Trump is expected to meet with top trade advisers on Thursday to discuss planned Dec. 15 tariffs on some $160 billion in Chinese goods, three sources familiar with the plans said. The Chinese yuan remained stable, edging 0.1% higher against the dollar. The Philippine peso also strengthened 0.1% ahead of its central bank meeting later in the day, where policy rates are expected to be kept steady. The Philippine government cut its growth goals for 2021 and 2022 due to rising global uncertainties, including the U.S.-Sino trade tensions. The Indonesian rupiah traded flat after Reuters reported that the central bank is set to hold two non-deliverable forward auctions every day from 2020. The move was a bid to increase market liquidity and not a currency intervention, Bank Indonesia's head of monetary operations said on Thursday. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0547 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 108.590 108.54 -0.05 Sing dlr 1.356 1.3569 +0.07 Taiwan dlr 30.344 30.505 +0.53 Korean won 1186.100 1194.7 +0.73 Baht 30.205 30.25 +0.15 Peso 50.700 50.77 +0.14 Rupiah 14030.000 14030 +0.00 Rupee 70.695 70.84 +0.20 Ringgit 4.152 4.163 +0.26 Yuan 7.032 7.0386 +0.10 Change so far in 2019 Currency Latest bid End 2018 Pct Move Japan yen 108.590 109.56 +0.89 Sing dlr 1.356 1.3627 +0.49 Taiwan dlr 30.344 30.733 +1.28 Korean won 1186.100 1115.70 -5.94 Baht 30.205 32.55 +7.76 Peso 50.700 52.47 +3.49 Rupiah 14030.000 14375 +2.46 Rupee 70.695 69.77 -1.31 Ringgit 4.152 4.1300 -0.53 Yuan 7.032 6.8730 -2.26 (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)