EMERGING MARKETS-South Korea leads Asia higher, currencies firm against weak greenback

    * S.Korea shares set for eighth straight week of gains
    * Taiwanese dollar climbs to highest level since 1997 
    * Stock markets in Philippines, Indonesia closed for holiday

    By Pranav A K
    Dec 24 (Reuters) - South Korea led most emerging Asian stock
markets higher in holiday-thinned trading on Thursday after the
country signed deals to secure COVID-19 vaccines, while most
regional currencies firmed against a softer dollar.
    Boosted by Seoul signing deals with Pfizer Inc and
Johnson & Johnson's Janssen to import vaccines, South
Korea's KOSPI hit a record high and was set to post an
eighth straight week of gains, while the won jumped
    Asia's fourth-largest economy, which had managed to contain
the first two waves of virus, has buckled under the latest
outbreak that emerged about two-weeks ago.
    Other big movers included India and Thailand's
 exchanges, up 0.7% and 0.5%, respectively. 
    In the United States, the S&P 500 eked out some gains
despite worries over a pending stimulus deal and falling jobless
claims, as investors rushed to economically vulnerable cyclical
stocks on bets of a recovery from the global health crisis.
    "Wall Street clearly feels something positive will emerge
from the veto/override/new vote mish mash on Capitol Hill at the
moment. That sentiment has flowed through to Asian markets
today," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia
Pacific at OANDA in Jakarta.
    "The Dow Jones had a strong-ish day and the Nasdaq fell,
suggesting cyclical rotation which usually benefits Asian
markets, given their weighting of cyclic stocks."
    China's benchmark stock index slipped after the
market regulator launched an antitrust investigation into tech
giant Alibaba Group for suspected monopolistic
    In currencies, the Taiwanese dollar outperformed
peers again as it jumped to its highest level since 1997 and was
on track for its best monthly gain since Feb 2017, consistently
benefiting from strength in its tech exports this year.
    The Thai baht was largely unchanged, a day after
the Bank of Thailand left the key interest rate unchanged and
downgraded its 2021 growth forecasts.
    Trading volumes were thin across the region ahead of the
Christmas holiday break, with stock markets in the Philippines
and Indonesia shut on Thursday, while most regions will be
closed on Friday except Thailand and China.
    ** Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are up 1 basis
point at 1.18%
    ** Top gainers on the Singapore STI include Wilmar
International Ltd up 1.77%, Genting Singapore Ltd
 up 1.18%
    ** Top gainers on the Thailand's SETI include Tata
Steel Thailand PCL up 14.29%, Seamico Securities PCL
 up 13.33%
  Asia stock indexes and currencies                                                     
 at 0420 GMT                                                                
 Japan                          -0.02      +4.87                      0.41         12.59
 China                          +0.15      +6.63                     -0.21         10.66
 India                           0.00      -3.23                      0.72         12.58
 Malaysia                       +0.10      +0.79                     -0.38          3.30
 Philippines                    +0.00      +5.43                      0.00         -7.82
 S.Korea                        +0.43      +4.82                      1.23         27.12
 Singapore                      +0.06      +1.14                      0.33        -11.79
 Taiwan                         +1.54      +7.05                      0.54         19.20
 Thailand                       +0.07      -0.89                      0.49         -9.93

 (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru)