EMERGING MARKETS-South Korea leads pre-Christmas gains across Asia

    * U.S. dollar on back foot as Brexit deal hopes firm
    * Thailand, India stocks head higher in thin trade
    * Philippines and Indonesia markets shut for holiday

    By Pranav A K
    Dec 24 (Reuters) - South Korean shares hit a record high on
Thursday, leading gains for most emerging Asian stock markets in
holiday-thinned trading after the country secured deals to
import COVID-19 vaccines.
    Most of the region's emerging currencies also firmed against
a softer dollar.
    The deals with Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson's
Janssen fuelled a nearly 2% rise in Seoul's KOSPI
, adding an eighth straight week of gains, while the won
 firmed half a percent.
    Asia's fourth-largest economy, which contained the first two
waves of virus, has buckled under the latest outbreak over the
past fortnight with public pressure over the government's
handling of vaccine procurement growing.
    Elsewhere in the region, Thai stocks climbed 1.3%
with investors looking for bargains after falls earlier in the
week, while conglomerate Reliance Industries and
financial stocks pushed Mumbai higher for a third
straight day.
    Stocks and currencies across Asia's emerging markets are set
to end the year on a positive note, having recovered much of the
losses suffered earlier in the year on the back of an upturn in
China and a flood of fiscal and monetary stimulus. 
    The Taiwanese dollar outperformed peers again and
jumped to its highest level since 1997, on track for its best
monthly gain since February 2017 as it continues to benefit from
the strength of its tech exports this year.
    Shares in Kuala Lumpur dipped, while Singapore's 
FTSE Straits Times Index edged higher at close, after
both markets closed early due to half-day trading.
    Trading volumes were thin across the region ahead of the
Christmas holiday break, with stock markets in the Philippines
and Indonesia shut on Thursday, and most due to close on Friday.
    ** 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 1.55%, and City Developments Ltd
, up 1.14% 
    ** Top gainers on the Thailand's SETI include G J
Steel PCL, up 21.4%, and Delta Electronics Thailand
, up 8.6%
  Asia stock indexes and                                    
 currencies at   0642 GMT                             
                        DAILY  YTD %               S   YTD %
                            %                  DAILY  
 Japan                  -0.03  +4.86            0.54   12.73
 China                  +0.15  +6.63           -0.55   10.28
 India                  +0.24  -3.00            0.43   12.26
 Malaysia               +0.10  +0.79           -0.30    3.39
 Philippi               +0.00  +5.43            0.03   -7.82
 S.Korea                +0.44  +4.84            1.70   27.72
 Singapor               +0.08  +1.15            0.30  -11.82
 Taiwan                 +1.55  +7.06            0.40   19.03
 Thailand               +0.10  -0.86            1.27   -9.23

 (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick
Graham and Subhranshu Sahu)