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EM ASIA FX-Asian units gain on China stimulus hopes, drop in new virus cases

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

* S.Korean won, Thai baht lead gains * Singapore dollar set to snap 11-day losing streak * Malaysian ringgit gains most in nearly 2 weeks (Adds text, updates prices) By Shriya Ramakrishnan Feb 11 (Reuters) - Emerging Asian currencies strengthened on Tuesday, as a drop in new coronavirus cases and hopes for more stimulus by Beijing to prop up a virus-stricken economy improved risk appetite. Chinese policymakers have implemented a raft of measures, including liquidity injections and import tariff exemptions for materials used for epidemic control, to support an economy jolted by the virus outbreak. "The strengthening of the yuan has flown through to the rest of the Asian currency basket," said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at ANZ Banking Group (Singapore). The onshore yuan firmed 0.2% against the dollar, set for the second straight session of gains. A Chinese central bank advisor said on Tuesday the People's Bank of China (PBOC) should consider lowering its benchmark deposit rate to enable banks to reduce lending rates and help small businesses. "As long as the coronavirus outbreak persists, the PBOC will likely adopt a supportive stance with its policy settings. The yuan may also be relied on to help offset the economic pressures on the Chinese economy," said Han Tan, a market analyst at FXTM. The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in mainland China climbed past 1,000 on Tuesday, however, the number of new confirmed cases fell. Currencies of export-focused countries, which have been under selling pressure due to concerns about the economic fallout of the virus outbreak and a stronger dollar, led gains in the region. Both the South Korean won and the Thai baht appreciated 0.3%. The Singapore dollar strengthened 0.2% and was set to end a 11-day losing streak, while the Taiwan dollar also advanced 0.2%. Singapore expects a 25-30% drop in visitors this year due to the new coronavirus outbreak, with a significant decline in Chinese travel to the city-state expected to extend to other key markets. The Malaysian ringgit firmed 0.2%, the most in nearly two weeks. Focus will now shift to the country's fourth-quarter economic growth figure due on Wednesday, which is expected to slow to its weakest since mid-2016 on lower private consumption and external demand, according to a Reuters poll. The Philippine peso gained 0.2%. Data on Tuesday showed the Philippines' trade deficit narrowed to its lowest level in six months in December, due to a surge in exports. The Indian rupee and Indonesian rupiah edged up 0.1% each. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on at 0554 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 109.890 109.74 -0.14 Sing dlr 1.387 1.3894 +0.15 Taiwan dlr 30.029 30.102 +0.24 Korean won 1183.300 1187.1 +0.32 Baht 31.170 31.27 +0.32 Peso 50.700 50.78 +0.16 Rupiah 13680.000 13690 +0.07 Rupee 71.203 71.30 +0.14 Ringgit 4.138 4.148 +0.24 Yuan 6.973 6.9875 +0.21 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 109.890 108.61 -1.16 Sing dlr 1.387 1.3444 -3.09 Taiwan dlr 30.029 30.106 +0.26 Korean won 1183.300 1156.40 -2.27 Baht 31.170 29.91 -4.04 Peso 50.700 50.65 -0.10 Rupiah 13680.000 13880 +1.46 Rupee 71.203 71.38 +0.25 Ringgit 4.138 4.0890 -1.18 Yuan 6.973 6.9632 -0.14 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)