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EMERGING MARKETS-Thai baht, stocks decline as stricter lockdown fears loom

    * Lockdown near Bangkok sparks sell-off in Thai markets
    * New strain of coronavirus in UK dents sentiment
    * Seoul imposes harsh social distancing measures, won drops

    By Anushka Trivedi
    Dec 21 (Reuters) - The Thai baht was set for its worst day
in more than three months on Monday and stocks sold off heavily
after coronavirus curbs in a key export hub near Bangkok were
extended following a record number of infections in the country.
    A seafood industry centre that is home to thousands of
migrant workers and is economically crucial to Thailand, Samut
Sakhon will stay locked down until Jan. 3 after an outbreak at a
shrimp market over the weekend added over 500 cases to the
tally. 
    Previously among the biggest beneficiaries of the vaccine
news, Thai equities slid 3% and the baht fell
almost 1% on Monday to lead declines in Asian emerging markets
due to the economy's heavy dependence on trade and tourism.
    "In relation to the Samut Sakhon spread, not just for the
region, but there is risk of a nationwide lockdown, which
represents further economic pressure and thus had been a hit to
market confidence and prices alike," said Jingyi Pan, a senior
market strategist at IG in Singapore.  
    However, the country's prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha
called for calm and said there were no immediate plans for a
wider lockdown and the government would monitor the situation
for a week before taking action.
    The surge in cases comes as Thailand attempts to revive its
COVID-19 pandemic-ravaged economy by softening some rules on
tourism by allowing more foreign visitors to return.

    Meanwhile, the South Korean won dropped 0.3%
after Seoul imposed stringent social distancing measures in the
city as the island-nation battles its worst coronavirus outbreak
yet. 
    Other Asian currencies buckled as investors sought the
safety of the dollar on news that a new coronavirus
strain had led to a tougher lockdown in the United Kingdom.

    The Indonesian rupiah and the Singapore dollar
fell about 0.2% and 0.6%, respectively, while the Taiwanese
dollar was the only exception, moving up 1.2%.    
    Most Asian equity markets slipped, including Manila
and Kuala Lumpur, although China shares added
0.8% on more policy affirmation from Beijing and helped cap
losses in the regional benchmarks.
    
    HIGHLIGHTS
    
    ** Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are up about
4.30 basis points at 1.22%
    ** Top losers on Thailand's SETI include Nok
Airlines PCL down 14.67% and Nirvana Daii PCL
down 12.9% 
    ** Top gainers on the Jakarta stock index include
Lotte Chemical Titan Tbk PT up 34.6% and Bank
Pembangunan Daerah Banten Tbk PT up 34.3% 
        
    
 Asia stock indexes and currencies                                                            
 at  0746 GMT                                                                 
 COUNTRY   FX RIC        FX DAILY %     FX YTD %       INDEX  STOCKS DAILY %      STOCKS YTD %
 Japan                        -0.24        +4.88                       -0.18             12.93
 China                        -0.19        +6.29                        0.76             12.15
 India                        -0.24        -3.19                       -0.76             12.22
 Indonesi                     -0.28        -1.70                        1.12             -2.02
 a                                                                            
 Malaysia                     -0.26        +1.00                       -0.46              3.54
 Philippi                     +0.02        +5.39                       -0.66             -7.55
 nes                                                                          
 S.Korea                      -0.27        +4.87                        0.23             26.44
 Singapor                     -0.63        +0.68                       -0.01            -11.61
 e                                                                            
 Taiwan                       +1.24        +6.99                        0.95             19.90
 Thailand                     -0.80        -0.40                       -3.36             -9.33
 
 (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard
Orr)
  
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