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EM ASIA FX-Most Asian currencies firm, but virus fears cap gains

By Rashmi Ashok

(Adds text, updates prices) By Rashmi Ashok Jan 24 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies rose slightly on Friday, although gains were limited by lack of direction from China and rising death toll and case count from a new coronavirus. Trading volumes were thin, with financial markets in China, Taiwan and South Korea closed for the Lunar New Year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday declared the virus outbreak an emergency for China but stopped short of declaring it an international concern, offering some comfort to investors. The virus had killed 25 people in China and infected more than 800 by Thursday. "With several Asian markets seeing a holiday-shortened trading week ahead, investors will be hoping that the outbreak doesn't worsen over the coming days," Han Tan, market analyst at Cyprus-based brokerage FXTM, wrote in a note. "Still, regional markets could see an outsized reaction when trading resumes, should pent-up concerns be unleashed if the virus' spread worsens drastically over the near-term." The Indonesian rupiah firmed 0.4% against the dollar, after Bank Indonesia (BI) kept interest rates on hold on Thursday. BI said the country's economic cycle had passed its lowest point and would now continue to improve, adding that the rupiah's level remained in line with fundamentals and was expected to remain stable. The Malaysian ringgit and the Philippine peso strengthened 0.3% each. The Singapore dollar strengthened marginally. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0544 GMT. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 109.520 109.48 -0.04 Sing dlr 1.350 1.3511 +0.10 Baht 30.510 30.48 -0.10 Peso 50.870 51.02 +0.29 Rupiah 13570.000 13625 +0.41 Rupee 71.280 71.27 -0.02 Ringgit 4.063 4.0735 +0.26 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 109.520 108.61 -0.83 Sing dlr 1.350 1.3444 -0.39 Taiwan dlr 30.006 30.106 +0.33 Korean won 1168.700 1156.40 -1.05 Baht 30.510 29.91 -1.97 Peso 50.870 50.65 -0.43 Rupiah 13570.000 13880 +2.28 Rupee 71.280 71.38 +0.14 Ringgit 4.063 4.0890 +0.64 Yuan 6.937 6.9632 +0.38 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)