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EMERGING MARKETS-South Korea leads pre-Christmas gains across Asia

Pranav A K
·3-min read
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* U.S. dollar on back foot as Brexit deal hopes firm * Thailand, India stocks head higher in thin trade * Philippines and Indonesia markets shut for holiday By Pranav A K Dec 24 (Reuters) - South Korean shares hit a record high on Thursday, leading gains for most emerging Asian stock markets in holiday-thinned trading after the country secured deals to import COVID-19 vaccines. Most of the region's emerging currencies also firmed against a softer dollar. The deals with Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen fuelled a nearly 2% rise in Seoul's KOSPI , adding an eighth straight week of gains, while the won firmed half a percent. Asia's fourth-largest economy, which contained the first two waves of virus, has buckled under the latest outbreak over the past fortnight with public pressure over the government's handling of vaccine procurement growing. Elsewhere in the region, Thai stocks climbed 1.3% with investors looking for bargains after falls earlier in the week, while conglomerate Reliance Industries and financial stocks pushed Mumbai higher for a third straight day. Stocks and currencies across Asia's emerging markets are set to end the year on a positive note, having recovered much of the losses suffered earlier in the year on the back of an upturn in China and a flood of fiscal and monetary stimulus. The Taiwanese dollar outperformed peers again and jumped to its highest level since 1997, on track for its best monthly gain since February 2017 as it continues to benefit from the strength of its tech exports this year. Shares in Kuala Lumpur dipped, while Singapore's FTSE Straits Times Index edged higher at close, after both markets closed early due to half-day trading. Trading volumes were thin across the region ahead of the Christmas holiday break, with stock markets in the Philippines and Indonesia shut on Thursday, and most due to close on Friday. HIGHLIGHTS ** Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are up 1 basis point at 1.18% ** Top gainers on the Singapore STI include Wilmar International Ltd, up 1.55%, and City Developments Ltd , up 1.14% ** Top gainers on the Thailand's SETI include G J Steel PCL, up 21.4%, and Delta Electronics Thailand , up 8.6% Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0642 GMT COUNTRY FX RIC FX FX INDEX STOCK STOCKS DAILY YTD % S YTD % % DAILY % Japan -0.03 +4.86 0.54 12.73 China +0.15 +6.63 -0.55 10.28 India +0.24 -3.00 0.43 12.26 Malaysia +0.10 +0.79 -0.30 3.39 Philippi +0.00 +5.43 0.03 -7.82 nes S.Korea +0.44 +4.84 1.70 27.72 Singapor +0.08 +1.15 0.30 -11.82 e Taiwan +1.55 +7.06 0.40 19.03 Thailand +0.10 -0.86 1.27 -9.23 (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Subhranshu Sahu)