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EM ASIA FX-Most Asian units weaken on virus anxiety, but set for weekly gains

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

* Taiwan dollar and Malaysian ringgit strengthen * There is still demand for carry trades - analyst * S.Korea pledges emergency steps to minimise economic impact (Adds text, updates prices) By Shriya Ramakrishnan Feb 14 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies weakened against the U.S. dollar on Friday, but were on course for weekly gains, supported by prospects of stimulus measures by policymakers to shield their economies from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The outbreak in China showed no signs of peaking with health authorities on Friday reporting more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases and 121 new deaths. Economists are scaling back growth expectations for the Chinese economy in the current quarter, though they say the downturn will be short-lived if the outbreak is contained. "We need concrete evidence that economic data is not going to be worser than what we think it is. The Asian currency landscape is however not bad, because we have the People's Bank of China (PBOC) guiding or trying to keep the yuan trading below 7 and there is still demand for carry trades," Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp said. The onshore Chinese yuan weakened against a slightly stronger dollar. The South Korean won pared early losses to trade a tick lower, finding some support as the country's two economic policy chiefs pledged to deploy emergency measures to minimise the economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak. South Korea's central bank chief also said on Friday that the bank must take a cautious approach to any further rate cuts. The Singapore dollar and Thai baht eased slightly during the day, while the Malaysian ringgit strengthened. Currencies of tourist hubs such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia have relatively been more affected by the virus outbreak as it threatens a slowdown in Chinese trade and visitors from China. Thailand's tourism ministry on Thursday said the number of foreign tourists in the country slumped nearly 40% between Feb. 1 and 7. Meanwhile, central banks of Malaysia and Thailand have cut their policy rates by 25 basis points this year. While the Philippine peso, Indonesian rupiah, and Indian rupee weakened between 0.1% and 0.2% during the session, analysts say the high yields offered by these currencies have helped them weather the virus storm stronger than their peers. "The high yielders are a little bit more immune to the carry and to the virus scare because central banks are easing and we are getting bond inflows," Innes added. FOREIGN INFLOWS SUPPORT TAIWAN DOLLAR The Taiwan dollar strengthened as much as 0.2% against the greenback, lifted by a large amount of foreign exchange inflows and provisions taken to assuage the impact on the island's economy. Taiwan's cabinet on Thursday proposed a special budget of $2 billion as the virus outbreak threatens to hit its economy, which is a key part of the global electronics supply chain. Foreign investors have purchased $273.8 million worth of Taiwanese stocks in the past two days, according to Refinitiv data. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0624 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 109.760 109.81 +0.05 Sing dlr 1.390 1.3891 -0.05 Taiwan dlr 30.007 30.037 +0.10 Korean won 1183.700 1182.8 -0.08 Baht 31.170 31.14 -0.10 Peso 50.510 50.46 -0.10 Rupiah 13700.000 13675 -0.18 Rupee 71.403 71.29 -0.16 Ringgit 4.139 4.141 +0.05 Yuan 6.986 6.9775 -0.13 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 109.760 108.61 -1.05 Sing dlr 1.390 1.3444 -3.27 Taiwan dlr 30.007 30.106 +0.33 Korean won 1183.700 1156.40 -2.31 Baht 31.170 29.91 -4.04 Peso 50.510 50.65 +0.28 Rupiah 13700.000 13880 +1.31 Rupee 71.403 71.38 -0.03 Ringgit 4.139 4.0890 -1.21 Yuan 6.986 6.9632 -0.33 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)