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EMERGING MARKETS-Malaysian stocks advance; U.S. yields weigh on Asia's currencies

    * Malaysia bourse at near two-week high
    * Thai baht heads for half a percent weekly drop
    * Singapore dollar, South Korea's won up for week
    * Indian rupee set to lose more than 2% over the week

    By Sameer Manekar
    April 9 (Reuters) - Malaysian shares were boosted on Friday
by a mega local merger of telecom giants Axiata and Telenor,
while Asia's emerging currencies buckled under pressure from a
late pick-up in U.S. bond yields and the dollar.
    Even though the dollar was poised for its worst week so far
this year, U.S. bond yields remained elevated and Asian
currencies were set for a mixed end to the week.
    South Korea's won, a beneficiary of improving
global trade, and the Singapore dollar were on track to
post weekly gains of about half a percent each, while
Indonesia's rupiah and the Thai baht were set
for losses. 
    However, the greenback's weakness this week has provided
some respite to Asia's risk-sensitive assets, with returns on
the relatively high-yielding bonds in Indonesia and India
falling sharply.
    U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's dovish
comments overnight, especially given the recent unexpected rise
in weekly jobless claims, supported Treasuries, said
Venkateswaran Lavanya, an analyst at Mizuho Bank.
    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, helping the broader market
 climb 0.5%.
    The Thai baht eased on Friday and was set to post a
weekly drop of 0.5%. Stocks climbed 0.7% for the day. 
    On Friday, the central bank reiterated its accommodative
stance, and warned the country might expand less than forecast
this year due to a new wave of coronavirus infections.
 
    A central bank official said the baht, despite recent
weakness, would be volatile. 
    In India, the rupee was set to slide more than 2%
this week after the central bank announced a large government
bond buying programme earlier this week and kept rates at record
lows. The currency fell half a percent on Friday.
    Next week on investors' radar will be the first-quarter
economic performance readings from China and Singapore, India's
inflation and industrial output, as well as central bank policy
meetings in Singapore and South Korea.
    The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is expected to
leave its policy unchanged next week, according to a Reuters
poll. A separate poll showed the economy likely contracted
slightly in the first quarter.
    "With the MAS poised to maintain its zero Singapore dollar
nominal effective exchange rate appreciation stance next week, I
don't see the Singapore dollar gaining anymore ground in the
coming week," said Prakash Sakpal, senior economist, Asia, at
ING.
    Philippine markets were closed for a market holiday.

    HIGHLIGHTS:    
    ** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields fall 1.6 basis points
to 6.448%
    ** India's 10-year benchmark yields fell 1.8 basis points to
6.013%
    ** Axiata hits 13-month high, while Digi.com
 surges up to 20% to a 10-month high
    
  Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0641 GMT
 COUNTRY      FX RIC      FX DAILY  FX     INDEX     STOCKS   STOCKS
                          %         YTD %            DAILY %  YTD %
 Japan                    -0.17     -5.66            0.20     8.47
 China                    -0.11     -0.46            -0.76    -0.49
 India                    -0.45     -2.49            0.01     6.39
 Indonesia                -0.21     -3.57            0.07     1.63
 Malaysia                 +0.00     -2.80            0.46     -1.07
 Philippines              -         -1.13            -        -8.33
 S.Korea                  -0.36     -3.12            -0.36    8.99
 Singapore                -0.08     -1.54            -0.18    11.84
 Taiwan                   -0.02     +0.17            -0.43    14.40
 Thailand                 -0.13     -4.89            0.69     8.29
 
    

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