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EM ASIA FX-Most currencies recover as yuan steadies, but virus fears persist

By Rashmi Ashok

* Chinese yuan firms, stands under key 7 per dollar level * Bank Indonesia to stay in markets to keep rupiah stable * Thai cenbank set to hold rates at Wednesday meet - poll (Adds text, updates prices) By Rashmi Ashok Feb 4 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies recovered slightly and the yuan held steady on Tuesday, as China's efforts to allay fears around the coronavirus outbreak lent some support to jittery markets. China's move to infuse liquidity into markets, trim some key lending rates and place restrictions on short-selling helped the local markets recover from Monday's steep losses. However, gains were capped as cautious investors took note of the death toll, which jumped to 425 in China by Monday-end even as Hong Kong reported its first death due to the virus. The onshore yuan firmed 0.34% to 6.998 per dollar, just below the symbolic 7 per dollar level it had breached on Monday. The central bank's official mid-point fix at 6.9779 per dollar, while nearly 0.8% weaker than the previous fix, did not stray above the 7.00 mark, offering some relief to Asian units, Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp, wrote in a note. The South Korean won strengthened 0.7%, while the Taiwan dollar added 0.4%. The Thai baht, the worst-hit currency from the virus fears so far, gained 0.3% to trade at 30.930, firming past the key 31 per dollar mark it had been trading above across the last three sessions. The Bank of Thailand will meet on Wednesday and it is widely expected to keep the benchmark rate unchanged and save the ammunition for later, as the coronavirus threatens key tourist inflows from China. The Indonesian rupiah traded a touch firmer, after a steep fall on Monday forced Bank Indonesia (BI) to step into bond, currency and non-deliverable forwards (NDF) markets to keep the currency stable. On Tuesday too, a central bank official said the BI will remain in the market to provide stability, adding that impact from the coronavirus to the country's economy would be "small". India, one of the world's largest importers of oil, saw its currency find some support, as worries over lower demand hurt crude prices. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0525 GMT. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 108.760 108.67 -0.08 Sing dlr 1.371 1.3687 -0.18 Taiwan dlr 30.220 30.332 +0.37 Korean won 1186.600 1195 +0.71 Baht 30.930 31.02 +0.29 Peso 50.780 50.86 +0.16 Rupiah 13725.000 13740 +0.11 Rupee 71.198 71.33 +0.18 Ringgit 4.113 4.115 +0.05 Yuan 6.998 7.0220 +0.34 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 108.760 108.61 -0.14 Sing dlr 1.371 1.3444 -1.95 Taiwan dlr 30.220 30.106 -0.38 Korean won 1186.600 1156.40 -2.55 Baht 30.930 29.91 -3.30 Peso 50.780 50.65 -0.26 Rupiah 13725.000 13880 +1.13 Rupee 71.198 71.38 +0.26 Ringgit 4.113 4.0890 -0.58 Yuan 6.998 6.9632 -0.50 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)