- Indian rupee firms 0.4% as oil prices ease
- Singapore shares cut losses, OCBC drops
- Japanese markets closed for holiday
Feb 23 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies advanced on Wednesday as markets remained on edge over the deepening Ukraine crisis and looming U.S. rate hikes in March, with the Indian rupee leading the pack on weaker oil prices.
The energy-sensitive rupee jumped 0.4%, supported by a pullback in oil prices as it became clear the first wave of U.S. and European sanctions on Russia for sending troops into eastern Ukraine would not disrupt oil supplies.
"The next couple of sessions may be key - should the FX space remain largely unperturbed alongside worsening headlines; it may suggest that the market is ready to look past the issue," OCBC Bank said in a note, referring to the Ukraine crisis.
Should the FX space look past the Russia-Ukraine conflict, expect it to revert back to central bank dynamics, it said.
The Indonesian rupiah and the Philippine peso gained 0.1% and 0.2% respectively, while the Thai baht reversed losses to rise 0.2%.
Thailand cannot contemplate any interest rate hikes until its economy is fully recovered, its financial minister said. Its central bank has left the key interest rate at a record low of 0.50% since May 2020.
Analysts at BofA said key risks to Thailand's recovery would come from more variants of the coronavirus, a sustained rise in oil and commodity prices from geopolitical events, a weaker-than-expected Chinese economy, and higher inflation.
U.S. Treasury yields rose, gold prices remained steady while the greenback dipped in a sign that flows to safe havens eased despite lingering geopolitical concerns and as investor focus turned to accelerating inflation.
The Singapore dollar firmed about 0.1%. Data showed the city-state's key consumer price gauge rose in January by its fastest pace in nearly a decade.
Singapore stocks cut early losses to trade 0.04% lower, with Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp shedding over 4%. Earlier in the session, the benchmark fell as much as 0.8% as sentiment remained subdued from record high COVID-19 infections a day earlier.
Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, Singapore's second-largest listed lender, posted a surprise 14% drop in quarterly profit and said it expected overall conditions to improve.
Meanwhile, stock markets in South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia rose between 0.4% and 0.5%.
South Korean shares recovered from two straight sessions of losses, although gains were capped by concerns around the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Philippines shares dropped more than 1%, while Thailand equities fell 0.2%.
** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are down 0.5 basis point at 6.498%
** Top losers on the Singapore STI include: Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd down 4.41%; Sembcorp Industries Ltd down 1.2%; SATS Ltd down 1.19%
** In the Philippines, top index losers are Ayala Land Inc down 3.29%; Universal Robina Corp down 2.8%; AC Energy Corp down 2.37%
Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu