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EMERGING MARKETS-Most Asian currencies advance, likely vaccine deal boosts won

Pranav A K
·3-min read

* Singapore begins rollout of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine * Thai stocks jump nearly 1% in last trading day of year * Philippine stock markets shut for holiday By Pranav A K Dec 30 (Reuters) - Asia's emerging currencies were broadly firmer against a soft dollar on Wednesday, with the South Korean won at a near three-week high after the government looked set to buy COVID-19 vaccines for most of its population. Singapore's dollar, the Malaysian ringgit and the Indonesia's rupiah gained between 0.2% and 0.3% as the greenback hit an almost two-year low, continuing its steady decline since U.S. President Donald Trump signed a coronavirus aid bill on Sunday. The won climbed 0.5% after U.S. biotech company Moderna Inc said on Tuesday it was in discussions with Seoul to supply 40 million or more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. The news came a day after South Korea, which has a population of 52 million, detected its first cases of the new coronavirus variant. "Basically broad U.S. dollar softness and vaccine optimism remain the key drivers of Asian FX strength this morning," said Christopher Wong, a senior foreign exchange strategist at Maybank. Heading into 2021, Mizuho Bank said in a note that the intensifying hunt for yield amid a deluge of cheap money will boost emerging markets assets and currencies, with currency moves also played up by a chronic soft U.S. dollar trend. Dollar weakness also underpinned gains in Asian stock markets, extending a year-end rally on hopes that vaccine rollouts would help regional economies shake off the pandemic's grip soon. Thai stocks jumped 0.9% in their last trading day of the year, while Singapore's main index notched a near two-week high as the city-state became one of the first Asian countries to begin an inoculation campaign against the coronavirus, with the Pfizer-BioNTech, COVID-19 vaccine. "Overall Singapore has been the laggard over the last 12 months and they're just catching up with the rest of the region. Valuations are cheap for Singapore stocks," said Joel Ng, an analyst at KGI Securities in Singapore. He added that Singapore is dependent on regional travel and trade and the vaccine news will help the country to open up soon. India's NSE Nifty 50 index faltered after a record run after the country's central bank warned the financial sector faces challening times ahead. Stock markets in the Philippines were closed for a public holiday, while trading volumes were thin across the region ahead of the New Year's eve break. HIGHLIGHTS: ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are down 18.6 basis points at 5.911% ** Top gainers on the Thailand's SETI include Castle Peak Holdings PCL up 24.2% AND Delta Electronics Thailand PCL up 19.18% ** Top gainers on the Singapore STI include Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust AND Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings Ltd rising nearly 1.6% each Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0452 GMT COUNTRY FX RIC FX DAILY % FX YTD % INDEX STOCKS DAILY % STOCKS YTD % Japan +0.27 +5.16 -0.31 16.17 China +0.10 +6.74 0.90 11.78 India +0.14 -2.65 -0.16 14.31 Indonesia +0.32 -1.32 -0.77 -4.92 Malaysia +0.25 +1.26 0.14 3.05 Philippine -0.02 +5.45 0.25 -8.64 s S.Korea +0.54 +6.46 1.50 30.26 Singapore +0.20 +1.52 0.54 -11.15 Taiwan +1.48 +7.14 0.80 21.60 Thailand +0.07 -0.33 0.39 -7.10 (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)