* Thai baht touches its highest level since December
* Asian currencies broadly higher as risk aversion eases
* But market players remain wary of geopolitical risks (Adds text, updates prices)
By Masayuki Kitano and Aviel Tan
SINGAPORE, July 21 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies rose on Monday, with the Thai baht touching a seven-month high, as investor risk aversion showed signs of easing, although market players remained cautious about geopolitical risks.
Asian currencies had slipped late last week after the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine on Thursday stoked geopolitical tension and made investors wary of riskier assets.
Their drop on Friday proved mild, however, and emerging Asian currencies have since regained their footing.
Heightened fears related to geopolitical risks seem to have eased somewhat, said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist for Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
“There is a bit more appetite for getting returns,” he said.
Asian currencies may also be finding some support ahead of a preliminary HSBC survey on China’s factory sector activity in July that is due on Thursday, Varathan said.
“I think markets are to some extent positioning for China data out this week, where they expect that a continued easing in credit conditions probably saw the economy continue to recover,” he said.
“They expect this to come through in the flash PMI numbers, and they’ll position for a positive Asia story,” he added.
The Thai baht and the Indonesian rupiah led the broad gains in Asian currencies on Monday.
Still, the situations in the Middle East and Ukraine remain major issues, said a trader for a Malaysian bank in Kuala Lumpur.
The dollar fell below support at around 32.10 versus the Thai baht and touched a low of 31.995, the baht’s strongest level since December last year.
Strong inflows into Thai stocks and bonds helped give a lift to the Thai baht.
A trader for a Thai bank noted that the 32.10 level had been tested “quite a few times”, adding that the baht’s breach of the chart level is positive for the currency’s outlook.
With Monday’s rise, the baht has gained about 2.8 percent from a trough hit in early June, having climbed as Thailand’s political tensions eased after the military took power in May to end months of turmoil.
The Indonesian rupiah rose 0.4 percent to 11,565 ahead of the official results of Indonesia’s presidential election.
Investors tend to see Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as more positive for the economy and have been betting on a win for him, based on unofficial tallies from quick polls, which has helped support the Indonesian currency.
Both Jokowi and his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, have claimed victory in the election held on July 9. The Elections Commission is to announce the official result by July 22.
One of Prabowo’s top aides said on Sunday that the Indonesian ex-general will not accept the official result until allegations of cheating are investigated.
CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0735 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 101.26 101.34 +0.08 Sing dlr 1.2411 1.2414 +0.02 Taiwan dlr 29.984 30.051 +0.22 Korean won 1026.55 1029.50 +0.29 Baht 32.01 32.13 +0.39 Peso 43.44 43.51 +0.17 Rupiah 11565.00 11610.00 +0.39 Rupee 60.21 60.28 +0.12 Ringgit 3.1750 3.1835 +0.27 Yuan 6.2078 6.2080 +0.00
Change so far in 2014 Currency Latest bid End prev year Pct Move Japan yen 101.26 105.28 +3.97 Sing dlr 1.2411 1.2632 +1.78 Taiwan dlr 29.984 29.950 -0.11 Korean won 1026.55 1055.40 +2.81 Baht 32.01 32.86 +2.67 Peso 43.44 44.40 +2.21 Rupiah 11565.00 12160.00 +5.14 Rupee 60.21 61.80 +2.64 Ringgit 3.1750 3.2755 +3.17 Yuan 6.2078 6.0539 -2.48
------------------------------------------------ (Additional reporting by IFR Markets’ Catherine Tan; Editing by Kim Coghill)