* Fed rate cut bets pared back
* Philippine stocks decline over 1%
* Equities in S.Korea on track for worst week in five

By John Biju
       May 24 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies and
equities retreated on Friday as investors reassessed the timing
of U.S. monetary policy easing following robust economic data
and hawkish Federal Reserve meeting minutes. 
    The Malaysian ringgit and the Thai baht
declined 0.3% each. 
    Equities in the Philippines declined as much as 1.1%
and Malaysian stocks retreated 0.6%. Equities in Taiwan
 slipped 0.3%, a day after a tech-fuelled rally following
AI chip leader Nvidia's quarterly results which helped
the benchmark hit a record high. 
    Stocks in South Korea were on track for their worst
week in five.
    Overnight data showed U.S. business activity accelerated to
the highest level in just over two years in May and
manufacturers reported a surge in prices for a range of inputs,
denting sentiment towards riskier Asian assets with the market
expecting the Fed to keep rates higher for longer.
    "For the year, markets are just pricing in 35 basis points
(bps) cut compared to 44 bps cut a week ago," said Christopher
Wong, a FX strategist at OCBC.
    Earlier this week, minutes from the Fed's April 30-May 1
meeting indicated willingness from some officials to consider a
rate hike to reign in inflation.
    "The USD rate environment is undisputedly a key driver for
sentiment in Asian markets," said Frances Cheung, a rates
strategist at OCBC.
    "As long as the risk of Fed pivoting back to tightening is
low, Asian markets shall be able to focus on domestic and
idiosyncratic factors. The overall sentiment appears to be one
that investors are convinced that peak Fed hawkishness has
passed," Cheung added. 
    Central banks in Asia such as the Bank Indonesia and Bank of
Korea kept interest rates unchanged this week while the
Philippine central bank hinted at cutting rates in August last
    "Most Asian central banks shall be able to primarily focus
on domestic factors when they decide on monetary policy, while
currency valuation comes into play if there is a material impact
on imported inflation," Cheung said. 
    The South Korean won declined 0.6% while stocks
 fell more than 1%. 
    China started a second day of war games around Taiwan. The
yuan was steady while equities slipped 0.2%. 
    ** Japan's inflation slows further, keeping BOJ cautious on
further rate hikes
    ** Chile central bank cuts rate by 50 basis points to 6.0%
    ** EXPLAINER-China's latest property market support package-
its contents and what's at stake
 ies at                                         
                     DAILY  YTD %     X      S  S YTD
                         %               DAILY      %
 Japan               -0.10  -10.2  <.N2  -0.93  15.76
                                0  25>          
 China                           EC>          
 India               +0.08  -0.00  <.NS   0.00   5.69
 Indones                 -  -3.72  <.JK      -  -0.69
 ia                                SE>          
 Malaysi             -0.30  -2.67  <.KL  -0.62  11.30
 a                                 SE>          
 Philipp             -0.03  -4.78  <.PS  -0.83   2.40
 ines                              I>           
 S.Korea                         11>          
 Singapo             -0.05  -2.44  <.ST  -0.47   2.06
 re                                I>           
 Taiwan              -0.03  -4.72  <.TW  -0.25  20.20
 Thailan             -0.30  -6.97  <.SE  -0.27  -3.65
 d                                 TI>          

 (Reporting by John Biju in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen