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EMERGING MARKETS-Philippine stocks fall as rate cut hopes fade, S. Korea index at record

    * South Korea stocks mark seventh straight session of gains
    * Thai shares firm over 1%
    * Most Asian currencies weaken vs dollar 

    By Anushka Trivedi
    Jan 5 (Reuters) - Philippine shares slumped 1% on Tuesday as
higher-than-expected inflation figures dimmed hopes of an
interest rate cut in the near term, while the tech-heavy South
Korean bourse scaled a record peak on robust chip export
forecast for the year. 
    Manila's index dropped to a one-week low as inflation
in December touched a near two-year high and the top end of the
central bank's projected range, owing to elevated food prices
after weather disturbances damaged crop yields. 
    "The market is responding to the higher-than-expected
December inflation print," said Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief
economist at Union Bank of the Philippines.
     The high inflation figure has reduced chances of an
interest rate cut further, but the fourth-quarter gross domestic
product (GDP) figures expected this month would be key, he
added.    
    Meanwhile, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) played down the
risk of surging prices, saying that it intends to keep policy
rates low for the next few quarters to support the pandemic-hit
economy.
    The Philippine peso was steady at 48.030 per dollar
mark.    
   Trade-reliant South Korea's stocks closed up 1.6%,
marking their seventh straight session of gains and the longest
buying spree since mid-November. 
    The country forecast a 10% jump in semiconductor exports
this year on sustained demand for tech gadgets as the COVID-19
pandemic forces a shift to working remotely.
    Thai stocks gained 1.4%, with some investors
relieved that authorities were holding off on imposing a
national lockdown despite rising infections.
    Most other equity markets in the region were subdued while
Asian currencies traded flat-to-lower as investors refrained
from making big bets ahead of a crucial Senate election in the
United States.
    The Indonesian rupiah, the Malaysian ringgit
and the Thai baht eased 0.1%, while the South Korean
won slid 0.5%. 
    A Democratic victory in the elections would hand the party
control of the Senate, potentially leading to more tax reforms
and fiscal stimulus which would push the long-term U.S. Treasury
yields higher, making the dollar more attractive versus emerging
currencies, analysts said.


HIGHLIGHTS
    
    ** The Taiwanese dollar bucked the wider trend with
gains of 1.6%
    ** Indonesian 3-year benchmark yields are up about 7.4 basis
points at 5.005%
    ** In South Korea, chip giants Samsung Electronics
 and SK Hynix jumped 1.1% and 3.6%,
respectively

 Asia stock indexes and currencies                                                        
 at 0739 GMT                                                                  
 COUNTRY      FX RIC      FX DAILY %    FX YTD %       INDEX  STOCKS DAILY %  STOCKS YTD %
 Japan                         +0.18       +0.32                       -0.37         -1.04
 China                         +0.00       +1.03                        0.73          1.60
 India                         -0.12       -0.06                        0.12          1.20
 Indonesia                     -0.11       +1.01                        0.21          2.32
 Malaysia                      -0.05       +0.35                        0.21         -1.31
 Philippines                   -0.03       -0.07                       -0.88         -0.08
 S.Korea                       -0.51       -0.13                        1.57          4.08
 Singapore                     +0.15       +0.19                       -0.14          0.39
 Taiwan                        +1.61       +1.82                        0.66          1.82
 Thailand                      -0.07       +0.23                        1.36          2.68
 
 (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh
Kuber)
  
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