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EM ASIA FX-Asian units dealt one-two punch by HK bill, trade deal concerns

By Ambar Warrick

* S. Korean won leads losses * Indonesian rupiah at 1 month low ahead of central bank decision * Singapore dollar losses mitigated by strong GDP (Adds text, updates prices) By Ambar Warrick Nov 21 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies pulled back on Thursday as fresh worries about Sino-U.S. trade negotiations as well as widening diplomatic rifts between Washington and its major trading partners sapped appetite for units in the region. Reports that the U.S. President would sign a bill to support Hong Kong protesters caused concerns that U.S. human rights concerns would bleed into trade talks with Beijing. That combined with reports that an interim trade deal between the world's two largest economies could be delayed to 2020. The broadening fears about trade were compounded by poor export data from Asian exporting nations, with the South Korean won leading regional losses and safe-havens such as the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen finding support. "Asia has been nervous about the state of trade play all week with equities ex-China underperforming," said Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, OANDA, in a note. "The early price action this morning suggests that the cautious walk to the exit may be turning into an unruly every man for himself." The Indonesian rupiah touched its weakest level in one month to the dollar, ahead of a central bank rate decision expected later in the day. The bank is widely expected to stand pat on its benchmark rate, having trimmed policy for the four prior months to boost Southeast Asia's largest economy. "We expect Bank Indonesia to pause and wait for impact from previous cuts to gradually materialise before easing further, if necessary," said Mizuho's Zhu Huani, in a note to clients. The Thai baht dipped 0.07% to the dollar after data showed exports dropped more than expected in October, due to an overly strong baht. The Singapore dollar trended slightly lower as the weak risk appetite was somewhat mitigated by faster-than- initially-estimated third-quarter GDP growth. SOUTH KOREAN WON The South Korean won was in particular focus due to dismal trade data and reports of the United States withdrawing troops from the country. The currency lost up to 0.76% against the dollar, touching its weakest level in one month. Exports fell 9.6% in the first 20 days of November from a year earlier, as trade ructions continued to chip away at demand for its electronics goods. South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Thursday that the United States is considering a significant cut to its troop numbers in South Korea if Seoul does not contribute more to the cost of the deployment. The debt burden at South Korean households also grew at its weakest on-year pace in more than 15 years in the September quarter, data showed, indicating consumption was still weak. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar on Thursday. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0504 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 108.500 108.6 +0.09 Sing dlr 1.363 1.3620 -0.04 Taiwan dlr 30.514 30.500 -0.05 Korean won 1178.500 1170.1 -0.71 Baht 30.200 30.18 -0.07 Peso 50.930 50.93 0.00 Rupiah 14110.000 14090 -0.14 Rupee 71.810 71.81 0.00 Ringgit 4.172 4.164 -0.19 Yuan 7.039 7.0364 -0.04 Change so far in 2019 Currency Latest bid End 2018 Pct Move Japan yen 108.500 109.56 +0.98 Sing dlr 1.363 1.3627 +0.01 Taiwan dlr 30.514 30.733 +0.72 Korean won 1178.500 1115.70 -5.33 Baht 30.200 32.55 +7.78 Peso 50.930 52.47 +3.02 Rupiah 14110.000 14375 +1.88 Rupee 71.810 69.77 -2.84 Ringgit 4.172 4.1300 -1.01 Yuan 7.039 6.8730 -2.36 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)