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EMERGING MARKETS-Asian stocks decline as new virus strain sparks lockdown fears

    * Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E
    * Travel and industrial stocks trip up in Asia
    * Thai central bank meeting awaited on Wednesday
    * Taiwan's dollar climbs on stellar Nov export order data

    By Anushka Trivedi
    Dec 22 (Reuters) - Philippines' and Malaysian equities slid
more than 1% on Tuesday to lead losses in Asian stock markets,
with export and travel focussed shares plunging amid worries
about possible lockdowns due to a new fast-spreading COVID-19
strain.
    Kuala Lumpur and Manila indexes were on track
to fall for a fourth day, while other markets in the
trade-dependant region also fell following a shaky session on
Wall Street where industrial and tourism shares were sold after
the virulent virus strain shut much of the United Kingdom.
    The new strain has raised fears about another wave of
lockdown and travel restrictions around the globe if it begins
to spread more widely, said Margaret Yang, a strategist at
DailyFX.
    "This has sparked profit-taking activity among the cyclical
and travel-sensitive stocks, which are exposed to greater level
of uncertainties now," she added. 
    The new virus strain was detected in Australia on Monday,
while Hong Kong and India said they would suspend flights from
Britain.
    South Korea, meanwhile, is battling a rise in infections at
home. Seoul's benchmark index and the won
fell 0.4% each.
    Earlier this year, the island-nation was lauded for its
handling of the first two waves of the virus. The won has been
among the top performing currencies but has given up 1.7% since
a new cluster broke out about two-weeks ago.
    The Thai baht eased 0.2% a day before the Bank of
Thailand's (BoT) first meeting since the central bank intervened
earlier this month in the foreign exchange markets to curb the
currency's rapid rise.
    Analysts at Standard Chartered in a note said they see
limited policy room for BoT to ease rates, even next year.
Instead, it may revise its 2021 growth forecasts as the economy
remains weak.
     A surge in cases over the weekend linked to a seafood
centre outbreak also clouded Thailand's economic outlook further
as the event threatens to douse the country's efforts at
reviving tourism.
     Other regional currencies weakened against a broadly
stronger greenback, with the Indonesian rupiah and
the Singapore dollar easing 0.3% each.
    The sole big gainer was Taiwan's dollar which
jumped 1.4% after data showed export orders soared for a ninth
straight month in November, marking its fastest rate of growth
since May 2010.
    
    HIGHLIGHTS
    
    ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are up 6 basis points
at 6.098%
    ** Top losers on FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kl Index
include Genting Malaysia Bhd, down 4.4%, and Genting
Bhd, down 4.2% 
    ** Top losers on the Singapore STI include: Jardine
Strategic Holdings Ltd, down 2.1 and Singapore Airlines
Ltd, down 1.8%
    
 Asia stock indexes and currencies at                                                  
 0428 GMT                                                                  
 COUNTRY       FX RIC      FX DAILY %   FX YTD %    INDEX  STOCKS DAILY %  STOCKS YTD %
 Japan                          -0.12      +5.02                    -0.58         12.27
 China                          -0.03      +6.28                    -0.20         11.92
 India                          +0.00      -3.25                    -0.75          8.71
 Indonesia                      -0.32      -1.87                    -0.81         -2.92
 Malaysia                       -0.20      +0.79                    -0.91          2.78
 Philippines                    +0.06      +5.30                    -1.46         -8.90
 S.Korea                        -0.37      +4.48                    -0.41         25.91
 Singapore                      -0.26      +0.64                    -0.23        -11.88
 Taiwan                         +1.35      +7.00                    -0.23         19.62
 Thailand                       -0.27      -0.86                     0.58        -10.76
 
 (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; editing by Richard
Pullin)
  
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