EM ASIA FX-Most Asian currencies softer ahead of high level Sino-U.S. trade talks

By Aditya Soni

* Most softer on U.S.-China, global growth worries * Chinese yuan and Indonesian rupiah weaken the most * Philippine peso and Indian rupee benefit from lower oil prices (Adds text, updates prices) By Aditya Soni Feb 11 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian units started the week weaker against the dollar on Monday, as concerns over slackening world growth and a possible resurgence in U.S.-China trade frictions kept investors on the sidelines. With the latest round of high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials set to kick-off on Thursday, investors stayed away from risk-sensitive assets and bet on safe-haven dollar. The Indonesian rupiah declined 0.5 percent and was among the top decliners in the region, following data on Friday that showed the country's current account deficit widened to its largest in over four years in 2018's final quarter. A swelling current account deficit has been a cause of concern for Indonesia and partly contributed to the rupiah's plunge in 2018. This has prompted the central bank to hike rates six times by 175 basis points last year, while the government raised import taxes and delayed some big infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, currencies of major oil importers, the Philippine peso and Indian rupee firmed 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, aided by a drop in crude oil futures . Boosted by the flight to safety bid, the dollar index firmed about 0.1 percent, staying near a six-week high. Expectations of a resolution are low heading into the talks after U.S. President Donald Trump last week said he did not plan to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline to achieve a trade deal. "U.S.-China trade talks over the Valentine's Day will be closely watched for signs of progress. But the reality is that olive branches, rather than rose stalks, are the best that anyone (anchored to reality) may be looking for," Mizuho Bank said in a client note. "The half-empty view, with U.S. trade hawks such as Lighthizer leading trade talks, is that a deal for Trump to sign off will probably elude. But the half-full take on this stalemate alongside lack of Trump-Xi meet-up is that the truce may be extended." The Chinese yuan and Taiwan dollar, both of which began trading after a week-long holiday, weakened 0.6 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. The South Korean and Malaysian ringgit posted modest losses. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0538 GMT. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0538 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 109.940 109.72 -0.20 Sing dlr 1.357 1.3563 -0.04 Taiwan dlr 30.830 30.745 -0.28 Korean won 1124.800 1123.9 -0.08 Baht 31.460 31.46 +0.00 Peso 52.010 52.12 +0.21 Rupiah 14035.000 13960 -0.53 Rupee 71.238 71.30 +0.09 Ringgit 4.070 4.067 -0.07 Yuan 6.778 6.7340 -0.64 Change so far in 2019 Currency Latest bid End 2018 Pct Move Japan yen 109.940 109.56 -0.35 Sing dlr 1.357 1.3627 +0.43 Taiwan dlr 30.830 30.733 -0.31 Korean won 1124.800 1115.70 -0.81 Baht 31.460 32.55 +3.46 Peso 52.010 52.47 +0.88 Rupiah 14035.000 14375 +2.42 Rupee 71.238 69.77 -2.06 Ringgit 4.070 4.1300 +1.47 Yuan 6.778 6.8730 +1.41 (Editing by Sam Holmes)