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EMERGING MARKETS-Asia shares, currencies climb as region forms biggest free trade bloc

    * 15 Asia-Pacific economies formed the world's largest free
trade
bloc 
    * Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand gain over 1%
    * South Korean won hits near 2-year high against the dollar

    By Nikhil Nainan
    Nov 16 (Reuters) - South Korea and Singapore led broader
Asian stock market gains on Monday following the formation of
the world's largest free trade bloc made up largely by countries
in the region, with gains further bolstered by upbeat data from
China and Japan. 
    Taipei and Bangkok also gained at least 1%,
with stocks in Thailand at a more-than three-month high as the
economy contracted by less than expected in the third quarter.

    Over the weekend, 15 Asia-Pacific economies signed the
China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),
which accounts for 30% of the global economy. The grouping aims
to lower tariffs and may aid in the post-pandemic recovery amid
fractured relations between the United States and China.

    "The reach and ambitions of the RCEP, looking to abolish
some 92% of traded goods tariffs, would be critical in deepening
supply-chain linkages," Mizuho Bank said in a note, adding that
hopes are "pinned on RCEP helping to catalyze the recovery in
global trade and commerce."
    In Seoul shares climbed 2%, while in Singapore
 and Shanghai, stocks rose around 1%.
    Currencies of trade-dependent economies such as the
Taiwanese dollar and South Korean won gained
around 1% each, with Indonesia's rupiah, the region's
carry-trade favourite, up 0.4%. 
    The won hitting a near two-year high on the U.S. dollar
caused the country's finance ministry to issue a warning on the
currency's movement. Dealers said the central bank was suspected
of buying dollars to stem gains.
     Investors were also buoyed by factory output in China
rising faster-than-expected in October, continuing on its
recovery path, while Japan's economy grew at the fastest pace on
record in the third quarter.
    Capital Economics said Thailand's GDP data showed the worst
is over for the tourism-reliant economy, but warned its recovery
will likely be one of the slowest in the region given its
reliance on foreign travellers. The baht edged 0.1%
higher. 
    Markets in India were closed for a public holiday. 
    
    HIGHLIGHTS:
    ** Indonesian 3-year benchmark yields are up 7.5 basis
points at 4.992%
    ** The top gainer in Singapore is Genting Singapore Ltd
, followed by Keppel Corp 
    ** Morgan Stanley downgrades Singapore equities to
equal-weight, and says China to outperform emerging markets by
less in 2021 than in 2020

             Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0344 GMT
 COUNTRY      FX          FX        FX      INDEX    STOCKS    STOCKS
              RIC         DAILY %   YTD %            DAILY %   YTD %
 Japan                    +0.10     +3.91            1.65      9.08
 China                    +0.38     +5.80            0.96      9.56
 India                    -         -4.32            -         5.03
 Indonesia                +0.35     -1.56            0.09      -13.23
 Malaysia                 +0.19     -0.56            0.25      0.31
 Philippines              +0.00     +5.15            -1.17     -11.86
 S.Korea                  +0.70     +4.38            1.87      15.60
 Singapore                +0.15     -0.05            1.30      -14.78
 Taiwan                   +1.21     +5.63            1.48      12.27
 Thailand                 +0.07     -0.80            1.35      -13.62
 

 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by
Lincoln Feast.)
  
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