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EM ASIA FX-S.Korean won leads Asia FX higher after Fed rate cut

By Niyati Shetty

* South Korean won firms to near 4-mth high * Room for South Korean cenbank to cut rates - official * Yuan set for its strongest month since January (Adds text, updates prices) By Niyati Shetty Oct 31 (Reuters) - Asian currencies strengthened against the dollar on Thursday, with South Korea's won leading the pack, after the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for a third time this year. The dollar weakened against a basket of major currencies after the U.S. central bank lowered its policy rate by 25 basis to sustain growth in the world's largest economy, but signalled a potential pause in the easing cycle. "Lower Fed rates make it easier for Asian central banks to follow suit and prop up domestic economies here," ING said in a note. Adding that while the signalled "pause" could be viewed as a negative sign, Wednesday's Fed cut might not be the last this cycle as rising global risks could hurt the country's growth prospects. The won, Asia's worst performing currency so far this year, rose by up to 0.7% to its strongest in nearly four months. The currency was set to record its best month since June. Earlier in the day, Bank of Korea's senior deputy governor said the latest policy decision and comments by the Fed means there is room for the South Korean central bank to cut its policy interest rate if needed. Market sentiment is in favour of risk taking and the Korean won is performing well since it is always seen as the currency that captures the mood in Asian forex markets, said Irene Cheung, senior strategist for Asia at ANZ Banking Group (Singapore). The Taiwan dollar and the Philippine peso each added 0.2%. The Singapore dollar, Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit and Indian rupee were marginally stronger. YUAN FIRMS DESPITE WEAK DATA The yuan added as much as 0.3% to its strongest in more than 2 months, propped up by a weaker greenback. However, gains were tempered as official data showed factory activity in China shrank for the sixth straight month in October and by more than expected, pointing to further pressure on the country's manufacturers from a trade war with the United States. China's central bank on Thursday also skipped its targeted medium-term lending facility operations for the first time since their debut in January, prompting some market concern that Beijing may have become less aggressive about monetary easing. The currency was on track to record its best month since January. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0632 GMT. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 108.680 108.83 +0.14 Sing dlr 1.360 1.3616 +0.10 Taiwan dlr 30.475 30.533 +0.19 Korean won 1163.400 1168.1 +0.40 Baht 30.180 30.22 +0.13 Peso 50.740 50.86 +0.24 Rupiah 14013.000 14022 +0.06 Rupee 70.798 70.88 +0.12 Ringgit 4.175 4.1785 +0.08 Yuan 7.042 7.0560 +0.20 Change so far in 2019 Currency Latest bid End 2018 Pct Move Japan yen 108.680 109.56 +0.81 Sing dlr 1.360 1.3627 +0.18 Taiwan dlr 30.475 30.733 +0.85 Korean won 1163.400 1115.70 -4.10 Baht 30.180 32.55 +7.85 Peso 50.740 52.47 +3.41 Rupiah 14013.000 14375 +2.58 Rupee 70.798 69.77 -1.45 Ringgit 4.175 4.1300 -1.08 Yuan 7.042 6.8730 -2.40 (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)