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EMERGING MARKETS-Thai baht gives up gains as talk of c.bank intervention swirls

Anushka Trivedi
·3-min read

* Indonesian markets closed for a holiday * Baht backs down from 30.0 per dollar mark * Malaysia's Public Bank announces bonus share issue By Anushka Trivedi Dec 9 (Reuters) - The Thai baht reversed early gains to trade flat on Wednesday afternoon, with traders saying the central bank appeared to have intervened to limit the currency's appreciation, which it has repeatedly said is negative for the economy. The baht firmed by up to 0.2% at 29.990 in early trade, slipping below the 30.0 per dollar mark that Thai exporters on Tuesday urged the central bank to preserve to maintain competitiveness. It retreated in afternoon trade to stand marginally weaker at 30.060 per dollar, with traders at two local banks saying the central bank had stepped in to sell dollars. The Bank of Thailand did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment. "There might be some action from the Bank of Thailand to keep the baht at the 30.0 per dollar level," Poon Panichpibool, markets strategist at Krung Thai Bank said. The Thai economy, with its large tourism sector, has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis, but investment and trade money have flowed in steadily in recent months, bringing the baht back close to levels at which it started the year. With the broad weakness in the dollar in recent months also playing a major role, cancellation this week of a planned briefing by the Bank of Thailand on currency measures has added to volatility. Poon from Krung Thai Bank said that forecasts suggest the baht will keep strengthening and that it may prove hard for the central bank to intervene on a large enough scale to reverse the trend. "BoT may try to provide interim relief to slow down the rise, so exporters can prepare themselves to hedge against the risk," he said. Thai markets are closed for public holidays on Thursday and Friday, and demonstrators plan another protest against the government in Bangkok on Dec. 10. Other Asian currencies rose against a softer greenback . But the Indian rupee failed to capitalise as it dropped 0.1% on suspicions the country's central bank was mopping up inflows to prevent its rise. In the equity markets, Malaysia's index scaled a 16-month peak after the country's second-largest lender Public Bank Bhd announced a bonus share issue, which is expected to improve the bank's liquidity and the stock's affordability. Positive sentiment from a strong finish at Wall Street on progress in coronavirus vaccines spilled over to Asia as most stock markets made big gains. South Korea's KOSPI surged 2% and Singapore shares advanced 0.7%, however China stocks fell 1% as concerns over tensions with the United States weighed. Financial markets in Indonesia were shut for a public holiday. HIGHLIGHTS ** Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are down 1.5 basis points at 1.265% ** Public Bank up 8.1%, its highest since Jan. 7 ** Top gainers on the Singapore STI: Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings Ltd up 2.7% and CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust up 2.5% Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0804 GMT COUNTRY FX RIC FX DAILY % FX YTD % INDEX STOCKS DAILY % STOCKS YTD % Japan -0.05 +4.23 1.33 13.36 China +0.02 +6.62 -1.12 10.55 India -0.05 -2.96 0.78 10.92 Malaysia +0.15 +0.62 1.04 3.77 Philippines +0.24 +5.42 -1.40 -9.12 S.Korea +0.06 +6.60 2.02 25.38 Singapore +0.13 +0.65 0.73 -11.69 Taiwan +0.02 +5.60 0.21 19.95 Thailand -0.03 -0.47 0.31 -6.10 (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Arun Koyyur)