BENGALURU (Reuters) - The Philippine central bank (BSP) will keep its key policy rate on hold for a sixth consecutive meeting on Thursday, according to all economists polled by Reuters, with the majority expecting the first cut in the last three months of the year.

Inflation inched up to 3.9% in May, close to the upper limit of the BSP's 2%-4% target, suggesting the central bank is far from starting an easing cycle despite its view that the cut could come as early as August.

With the Philippine peso being one of the worst-performing emerging currencies this year, having lost nearly 6% against the dollar, the BSP is unlikely to pre-empt the U.S. Federal Reserve's first rate cut, expected in September.

All 25 economists in a June 18-24 Reuters poll expected Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to keep its overnight borrowing rate unchanged at 6.50% on June 27.

Median forecasts showed the rate on hold after the subsequent meeting in August, followed by a half-point cut in the fourth quarter when the BSP convenes twice - in October and December.

"Inflation is uncomfortably high..., which means it is not time for the BSP to begin monetary policy easing just yet. A delay in the first rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve adds to the case the BSP will stand pat in the upcoming meeting," said Sarah Tan, economist at Moody's Analytics in Singapore.

"Following the Fed's path rather closely will help to maintain interest rate spreads, thus stabilising currency exchange rates versus the dollar. While monetary policy easing has been repeatedly delayed through the course of this year, the next move by the BSP will likely still be a rate cut."

Among those with end-year forecasts, 19 of 22 economists expected the policy rate to be 6.25% or lower, while three saw no change.

Six of 22 economists expected the central bank to make the first cut in August.

"The risk is skewed towards an earlier move by the BSP...but currency stability concerns will likely curb the magnitude of rate cuts," said Jin Tik Ngai, EM Asia economist at JP Morgan.

"Recent peso underperformance is likely a reflection of market speculation the BSP will ease before the Fed, and should the central bank hold off their first rate cut decision, the currency could retrace some of its recent depreciation."

(For other stories from the Reuters global economic poll:)

(Reporting by Anant Chandak; polling by Veronica Khongwir; editing by Vivek Mishra and Mark Heinrich)

By Anant Chandak