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EMERGING MARKETS-Malaysia, Thai equities lead emerging Asian markets; currencies muted

    * Malaysia bourse at more than 2-week high
    * Thai baht heads for half percent weekly drop
    * Malaysia's ringgit, South Korea's won set to post weekly
gain

    By Sameer Manekar
    April 9 (Reuters) - Malaysian shares were driven higher on
Friday by a mega local merger of telecom giants Axiata and
Telenor, while Asia's emerging currencies inched ahead as the
dollar hovered near a two-week low and U.S. bond yields
retreated further.
    The Thai baht firmed 0.1% in line with the region's
currencies that were flat to slightly higher, with the dollar
headed for its worst week of the year after a bumper March and
U.S 10-year Treasuries hovering around a around two-week low.
    The retreat in U.S. yields provided further respite to
Asia's risk-sensitive currencies. An unexpected rise in weekly
U.S. jobless claims signalled an uneven recovery in the labour
market.
    Comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell about
managing any temporary increases in inflationary pressures
without removing monetary policy accommodation, especially given
weak labour market conditions, supported Treasuries, said
Venkateswaran Lavanya, analyst at Mizuho Bank.
    Over the week, Asian currencies were broadly mixed, with the
Singapore dollar and South Korean won set to
log decent gains, while the Thai baht and Indian rupee
 were on track to lose. The rupee ended Thursday at a
five-month low.
    South Korea's won, a beneficiary of improving
global trade, was set to strengthen nearly one percent over the
week, while the Thai baht was headed for a half percent
drop.
    Meanwhile, Thailand's central bank said the country may
expand less than forecast this year after a new wave of
coronavirus infections. An official added that the baht, despite
recent weakness, will be volatile.
    Equities in Malaysia and Thailand were the gainers among
emerging Asian markets, with both the benchmarks advancing as
much as 0.8% each.
    "Risk assets found support as Fed speaks overnight
underscored Fed's commitment to its dovish and patience stance,"
analysts at Maybank FX Research & Strategy said.
    In Malaysia, a deal between telecom firm Axiata Group
 and Norway's Telenor ASA to combine their
local mobile operations sent shares of Axiata and Telenor's
local arm Digi.com soaring.
    Axiata jumped as much as 9.7% to its 13-month high level,
while Digi.com surged 17.3% to a near nine-month peak.

    Shares in Jakarta were set for a fourth consecutive
session of gains, advancing up to 0.7% on Friday to their
highest since March 30.

    HIGHLIGHTS:    
    ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields fall 3.7 basis points
to 6.427%
    ** Indonesia in talks with China to secure as many as 100
million COVID-19 vaccine doses
    
  Asia stock indexes and currencies at   0338 GMT
 COUNTRY      FX RIC      FX       FX     INDEX    STOCKS   STOCKS
                          DAILY %  YTD %           DAILY %  YTD %
 Japan                    -0.04    -5.53           0.37     8.66
 China                    -0.02    -0.38           -0.80    -0.53
 India                    +0.00    -2.04           0.00     6.38
 Indonesia                +0.00    -3.37           0.55     2.11
 Malaysia                 +0.05    -2.76           0.54     -0.99
 Philippines              -        -1.19           -        -8.33
 S.Korea                  -0.05    -2.83           -0.22    9.14
 Singapore                +0.07    -1.39           -0.19    11.84
 Taiwan                   +0.04    +0.23           -0.31    14.53
 Thailand                 +0.10    -4.68           0.67     8.27
 

 (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim
Coghill)
  
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