EM ASIA FX-Most firm on stimulus hopes, S. Korean won leads gains

By Anushka Trivedi

* Yuan strength helping Asian FX - analyst * China reports slowing number of coronavirus cases * Malaysian ringgit drops to near 2-week low (Adds text, updates prices) By Anushka Trivedi March 10 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies firmed on Tuesday, with South Korea's won leading the gains, as rising hopes of stimulus measures from global central banks and governments to limit the economic damage from the coronavirus epidemic put a floor under risky assets. U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to take "major" steps to shield the economy against the impact of the coronavirus outbreak soon after the Federal Reserve stepped up the size of its fund injections into the battered markets. "It is becoming clear that central banks cannot be the only game in town and the government needs to step in," Maybank analysts wrote in a client note, as speculations mounted that more coordinated measures could be expected across the globe. Markets worldwide plumbed fresh lows in the previous session, with the U.S. dollar getting pummelled after a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia triggered the biggest daily rout in oil prices since the 1991 Gulf War. Global equities were also battered, as investors fled to safer assets, pushing the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield to a record low, while the Japanese yen surged against the dollar. However, the greenback gained some ground on Tuesday and Treasury yields ticked higher amid stimulus chatter but remained below 1%. A gradual drop in the number of coronavirus cases reported in China brought a semblance of stability in Asian markets, keeping the yuan afloat, said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at ANZ. "A stable yuan is helping to keep rest of the Asian currencies well anchored." The Chinese yuan rose 0.2% to 6.934 against the dollar, lending added support after the country's central bank pegged the currency at a firmer-than-expected level. The South Korean won, whose fortunes are largely aligned with China's economic stability, strengthened 0.9%. Also helping sentiment was a dip in the rate of reported coronavirus infections in the country. The trade-sensitive Taiwanese dollar added 0.6%. The country reported a surprise jump in February exports late on Monday. The Indonesian rupiah gained 0.6% after losing more than 1% in the previous session. The country's financial minister comforted markets on Tuesday by expressing readiness to launch all the policies implemented during the 2008 financial crisis, a day after stating that full-year budget deficit would likely widen. The Malaysian ringgit dropped as much as 0.4% to a near two-week low against the dollar. The currency is underperforming its regional peers since Malaysia is a large LNG exporter and weak oil prices ultimately tend to hurt exports from the country, ANZ's Goh commented. For fiscal 2020, petroleum-related revenue was estimated to be about 50.5 billion ringgit ($11.96 billion), or about 20.7% of Malaysia's budget. The Indian rupee did not trade on account of a local public holiday. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0508 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 104.530 102.34 -2.10 Sing dlr 1.386 1.3839 -0.13 Taiwan dlr 29.950 30.130 +0.60 Korean won 1193.400 1204.2 +0.90 Baht 31.410 31.46 +0.16 Peso 50.450 50.54 +0.18 Rupiah 14310.000 14385 +0.52 Ringgit 4.220 4.217 -0.07 Yuan 6.935 6.9480 +0.19 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 104.530 108.61 +3.90 Sing dlr 1.386 1.3444 -2.98 Taiwan dlr 29.950 30.106 +0.52 Korean won 1193.400 1156.40 -3.10 Baht 31.410 29.91 -4.78 Peso 50.450 50.65 +0.40 Rupiah 14310.000 13880 -3.00 Ringgit 4.220 4.0890 -3.10 Yuan 6.935 6.9632 +0.41 ($1 = 4.2240 ringgit) (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)