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EMERGING MARKETS-Thai baht steady ahead of rate decision; Asian stocks track China

    * Thai c.bank expected to keep key rate steady
    * Indonesia stocks buck regional trend to trade lower
    * Malaysian stocks set to snap 4-day losing streak

    By Pranav A K
    Dec 23 (Reuters) - The Thai baht held steady on Wednesday
ahead of a central bank meeting where interest rates are
expected to be kept on hold, while most Asian stocks were
shielded from further losses as gains in China kept investors in
a broadly positive mood.
    The baht edged up 0.1% against the dollar, and
stocks in the region climbed as much as 1% before giving
up some of the gains, as investors awaited new economic
forecasts for the year.       
    Thailand's central bank is widely expected to leave its key
interest rate at an all-time low of 0.50% at its final meeting
of 2020 to preserve its policy options as the tourism-reliant
economy deals with a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.

    "A policy rate change is unlikely at this meeting, however
there is still a need to get real interest rates down for at
least two reasons - to mitigate solvency risk and to aid
economic recovery," said BNP Paribas' head of ASEAN Economics,
Arup Raha.  
    "Given that nominal interest rates appear to be at an
effective lower bound, the BOT will likely have to move towards
unconventional monetary policy and/or more targeted measures
sooner or later."
    Broader Asian stock markets, meanwhile, made modest gains
despite a global pullback in equities as a near 1% jump in
Chinese shares, helped lift sentiment. Regional markets
tend to track China, their largest trade partner.
    The central bank of China said it will avoid sudden policy
tightening next year in a bid to prop up an economic recovery
from the pandemic-induced slump.
    Asian stocks have recovered from their March lows as signs
of a rapid recovery in China, low valuations and high yields in
some markets have prompted investors to rush back into the
region. 
    Malaysian stocks rose 0.5% and were on course to end
a four-day losing streak, while South Korea's KOSPI
gained 0.9% even as the country reported its second-highest
daily tally of COVID-19 cases.
    The won, however, weakened slightly. 
    "Relatively better management of the virus situation across
most of the Asia region is likely having helped to see buying
interests step in following the dip so far this week," said
Jingyi Pan, a senior market strategist with IG.        
    Equities in Philippines and Indonesia bucked
regional gains, as investors booked profits in the last trading
day of the week for both markets. 

    
    HIGHLIGHTS
    
    ** Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are down 1
basis points at 1.16%
    ** Top gainers on FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kl Index
include Genting Bhd up 3.02% and Genting Malaysia Bhd
 up 2.3%
    ** Top gainers on the Thailand's SETI include Max
Metal Corporation PCL up 100% and Indara Insurance PCL
 up 29.52%
    
    
  Asia stock indexes and                                      
 currencies at   0514 GMT                               
 COUNTRY   FX RIC        FX     FX        INDEX  STOCK  STOCKS
                      DAILY  YTD %                   S   YTD %
                          %                      DAILY  
                                                     %  
 Japan                +0.17  +4.99                0.33   12.12
 China     <CNY=CFXS  -0.11  +6.31                0.85   10.99
           >                                            
 India                -0.00  -3.33                0.48   11.19
 Indonesi             -0.25  -2.12               -0.44   -4.81
 a                                                      
 Malaysia             -0.02  +0.71                0.53    3.26
 Philippi             +0.09  +5.40                0.03   -7.82
 nes                                                    
 S.Korea   <KRW=KFTC  -0.12  +4.30                0.86   25.46
           >                                            
 Singapor             +0.11  +0.75                0.05  -12.23
 e                                                      
 Taiwan               +1.45  +7.00                0.33   18.57
 Thailand             +0.07  -0.93                0.01   -9.83
 


 (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Additonal reporting by
Anushka Trivedi; editing by Richard Pullin)
  
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