* Malaysian ringgit heading for 0.7% loss in Feb
* Taiwan stocks on track to fall 5.7% in Feb
* Indonesia, Thailand Feb CPI due on Friday

By Ayushman Ojha
       Feb 29 (Reuters) - Asian currencies were largely subdued
on Thursday and were headed for monthly declines, while equities
were mixed as investors remained cautious ahead of the U.S.
inflation data that could give clues on the Federal Reserve's
rate outlook.
    Regional currencies which gained by the end of 2023 on an
unexpectedly dovish shift from the U.S. Federal Reserve, have
lost their ground in 2024, reflecting gains in the dollar as
markets have scaled back expectations of a cut to June, where
wagers were on March in start of the year.
    The Thai baht edged 0.1% higher, set for a 1.3%
loss for February, while Singapore dollar gained 0.1%,
eyeing an 0.3% monthly fall. 
    Malaysia's ringgit inched up 0.1%, but was on track
to lose 0.7% for the month and has declined 3.7% so far in 2024.
    The currency reached a 26-year-low last week to the levels
last seen during 1998 Asian financial crisis.
    Country's second Finance Minister Amir Hamzah Azizan said,
Malaysia expects the ringgit's value to appreciate this year,
given it's positive fundamentals and prospects, adding that the
government will not peg the ringgit as it did during the 1998
    The response echoed previous statements from Prime Minister
Anwar Ibrahim and central bank Governor Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour
that the currency is undervalued.
    The increased frequency of officials talking about the
ringgit suggest that they have stepped up scrutiny of the 
ringgit's move, said Christopher Wong, currency strategist at
    "If there is excessive volatility or one-sided move, then it
is likely to warrant some action," he added.
    Meanwhile, the Taiwanese dollar declined 0.3%, and
was set to lose 1.2% in February after a 1.8% fall in January.
    Traders in Taiwan said cross-strait tensions weighed on the
local currency, which rose slightly on the dollar on Thursday.
China's coast guard has begun patrolling near the
Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands after two Chinese nationals
died trying to flee Taiwan's coast guard.  
    Stocks in the region were largely mixed ahead of U.S.
January personal consumer expenditures (PCE) price index - Fed's
preferred inflation measure. It is expected the index to have
risen 0.3% on a monthly basis after a 0.2% increase in December,
according to Reuters poll.
    "Given the strong (U.S.) CPI and PPI, the greenback is
unlikely to be affected by a reading that shows a pick-up on a
monthly basis unless it turns out be much higher than the prior
month," analysts at Maybank wrote.
    In Asia, Philippine shares rose as much as 0.9%, on
track to gain 4.1% in February, while Taiwan stocks
gained 0.2%, set for their best month since November 2023.
    Thailand stocks dropped as much as 0.5% and while
Malaysian stocks were up as much as 0.4% on Thursday.
    Amongst local data, focus is on February inflation data from
Thailand and Indonesia, both due on Friday, for clues that when
regional central banks could start cutting rates.  
    ** Thai Jan factory output drops 2.94% y/y, beats forecast
    ** China securities regulator to tighten scrutiny of
derivatives, high-frequency trading
    ** India's fourth-quarter GDP data due on Thursday, China's
February PMI numbers to be released on Friday

  Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0455 GMT
                     DAILY   YTD     X      S  S YTD
                         %     %        DAILY      %
 Japan               +0.56  -5.8  <.N2  -0.13  17.02
                               5  25>          
 China                       6  EC>          
 India               +0.04  +0.3  <.NS  -0.07   0.94
                               8  EI>          
 Indones             -0.25  -2.0  <.JK  -0.01   0.76
 ia                            7  SE>          
 Malaysi             +0.13  -3.5  <.KL   0.19   6.45
 a                             9  SE>          
 Philipp             +0.23  -1.3  <.PS   0.66   7.31
 ines                          4  I>           
 S.Korea                     5  11>          
 Singapo             +0.11  -1.8  <.ST  -0.03  -3.16
 re                            8  I>           
 Taiwan              -0.29  -2.9  <.TW   0.29   5.46
                               2  II>          
 Thailan             +0.08  -4.8  <.SE  -0.43  -2.80
 d                             9  TI>          
 (Reporting by Ayushman Ojha in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael