February 6, 2020 / 6:01 AM / 21 days ago

EM ASIA FX-Taiwan dollar, Korean won climb on upbeat U.S. import data

    * December U.S. imports up 3.2% to seven-month high
    * Yuan climbs, China to slash tariffs on some U.S. imports
    * Philippine peso, Indian rupee flat ahead of rate decisions

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Rashmi Ashok
    Feb 6 (Reuters) - Currencies of export-reliant Taiwan and
South Korea firmed on Thursday after data showed sharp growth in
U.S. imports, while the yuan climbed on China's plans to slash
tariffs on some U.S. imports.
    U.S. goods imports rose 3.2% to a seven-month high after
three straight months of declines, partly helping a rally on
Wall Street overnight.
    The won opened firmer and jumped as much as 1.1%
- its biggest intraday percentage gain in more than four weeks. 
    The Taiwan dollar added nearly 0.6% to hit a
two-week high.
    The yuan climbed 0.2% after China said it would
halve tariffs on some goods imported from the United States
starting Feb. 14.
    The currency rose to 6.959 against the U.S. dollar, its
strongest since Jan. 23.
    Other Asian currencies also traded slightly higher on the
news, although rising worries over the coronavirus outbreak that
had claimed 563 lives in China by Wednesday limited the gains.
    Meanwhile, the Indian rupee and the Philippine peso
 were little changed ahead of central bank policy
    A Reuters poll showed the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is
expected to cut interest rates, in a bid to buttress the economy
against the negative impact of the virus outbreak, given that
January inflation stayed within the central bank's target range.

    On the other hand, economists largely expect the Reserve
Bank of India (RBI) to keep rates on hold, as high inflation
throws a spanner in its accommodative plans.
    The RBI lowered policy rates by a total of 135 basis points
in 2019, leading to a spike in inflation even as growth
    "Unfortunately for the RBI, no matter what its decision is,
it is likely to be received negatively by both the currency
market and the onshore equities market. Such are the joys of
stagflation," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia
Pacific at OANDA, said in a note.
    Among losers, the Thai baht slid 0.4%, a day after
the Bank of Thailand cut interest rates in a surprise move as it
strives to cushion the tourism-reliant economy in the wake of a
hit from the coronavirus epidemic.
    The Singapore dollar slipped for a second straight
session after the Monetary Authority of Singapore's comments on
Wednesday were seen by markets as an indicator of policy easing
in its April meeting. 

    The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against
the dollar at 0520 GMT.
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.950     109.8         -0.14
 Sing dlr               1.384       1.3812        -0.22
 Taiwan dlr             30.005      30.152        +0.49
 Korean won             1178.400    1191.5        +1.11
 Baht                   31.090      30.96         -0.42
 Peso                   50.720      50.73         +0.02
 Rupiah                 13610.000   13670         +0.44
 Rupee                  71.220      71.19         -0.05
 Ringgit                4.117       4.1195        +0.06
 Yuan                   6.962       6.9753        +0.19
 Change so far in 2020                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2019      Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.950     108.61        -1.22
 Sing dlr               1.384       1.3444        -2.88
 Taiwan dlr             30.005      30.106        +0.34
 Korean won             1178.400    1156.40       -1.87
 Baht                   31.090      29.91         -3.80
 Peso                   50.720      50.65         -0.14
 Rupiah                 13610.000   13880         +1.98
 Rupee                  71.220      71.38         +0.22
 Ringgit                4.117       4.0890        -0.68
 Yuan                   6.962       6.9632        +0.02

 (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu
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