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EMERGING MARKETS-Softer Fed signals, easing Chinese COVID curbs power Asian gains

* Indonesian rupiah gains most in 3 weeks * Indian rupee hits highest level since Nov. 14 * South Korean won firms for 3rd straight day By Roushni Nair Dec 1 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies advanced on Thursday, with the Malaysian ringgit hitting a more than five-month high, as the U.S. dollar slid after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the pace of future interest rate hikes would slow. The ringgit appreciated 0.9% to its highest level since June 30, adding to recent strength seen after the appointment of a new prime minister last week. Signs that China may be softening its dynamic zero-COVID strategy also supported the Malaysia currency as exports to China would benefit from any pick up in activity there. The ringgit has firmed about 2% since Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister last Thursday, but is still down 5.5% for the year. Markets are also looking ahead to a new cabinet line-up and a revised 2023 budget before the year end. Thailand's baht, which gained on Wednesday after the central bank raised rates by 25 basis points, rose a further 0.4% to its highest level since June 29. Stocks added 0.5% and touched a more than two-month high. While the Bank of Thailand trimmed its growth forecast for this year and next, it is still counting on strength in the tourism sector to lessen the impact of any global slowdown. "For now, my best case is we are going to see about 20 million foreign tourists in the next year, and that's really because I hold some expectation for the return of Chinese tourists in maybe the second half," said Poon Panichpibool, markets strategist at Krung Thai Bank. Thailand's economy is heavily reliant on tourism. The sector is trying to bounce back after being hit by a slump in Chinese visitors since the COVID pandemic erupted in early 2020. There been signs of some easing in China's strict anti-COVID measures after angry protests across the country in recent days. Also, reported infections have begun to show a modest decline. That was partly behind the gains in most regional share markets, though stocks in the Philippines shed 0.2% after rising for six consecutive sessions. In India, the rupee firmed 0.5% and benchmark stocks gained 0.6%. The country posted economic growth of 6.3% in the second quarter, which Standard Chartered analysts said was a bit better than consensus expectations. Indonesia's rupiah added to earlier gains to trade 0.6% higher after data showed the country's inflation eased in November but stayed above the central bank's target range. HIGHLIGHTS: ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields fall 7.3 basis points to 6.876% ** China Caixin manufacturing PMI beats at 49.4 vs poll 48.9 ** Two cities in China relaxed some curbs after unrest Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0423 GMT COUNTRY FX RIC FX FX INDEX STOCKS STOCKS DAILY % YTD % DAILY YTD % % Japan +0.89 -15.8 1.16 -1.74 8 China 1 India +0.39 -8.35 0.59 8.73 Indonesia +0.62 -8.85 -0.60 6.95 Malaysia +0.89 -5.45 0.35 -2.83 Philippine +0.23 -9.50 -0.17 -4.96 s S.Korea Singapore +0.17 -0.74 0.15 5.50 Taiwan +0.89 -9.64 0.95 -17.55 Thailand +0.40 -4.53 0.83 -0.53 (Reporting by Roushni Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)