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EM ASIA FX-Yuan leads gainers as U.S. removes China currency manipulator label

    * Yuan hits 6-mth high, set for 6th straight session of
    * Taiwan dollar up; denies swap intervention in FX
    * Baht strength a thorn in the side of the authorities -

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Niyati Shetty
    Jan 14 (Reuters) - The Chinese yuan firmed to its strongest
level in six months on Tuesday, leading most other Asian
currencies higher, as the U.S. Treasury Department removed its
designation of China as a currency manipulator. 
    The yuan strengthened as much as 0.4% to 6.8661
per dollar and was poised for its sixth straight session of
    Monday's announcement comes ahead of the signing of a Phase
1 trade deal between the United States and China due on Jan. 15,
expected to ease tensions between the two countries.

    "While there had been little changes to Asia economies'
participation to the U.S. FX report watchlist, this lifting of
China's currency manipulator label may see to some relief for
USD/Asian declines which would be beneficial to regional
markets," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG. 
    The U.S. Treasury report cited continued concerns about the
currency practices of nine other countries, including Malaysia,
Singapore and South Korea. 
    The South Korean won advanced 0.2%, while the
Malaysian ringgit and the Singapore dollar were
little changed.
    Taiwan's dollar was up 0.2% even though the U.S.
report said the country was close to triggering thresholds to be
added to the currency monitoring list.
    A senior official of Taiwan's central bank told Reuters on
Tuesday that the bank has never used swaps to intervene in the
currency market, after the Treasury Department cited an analyst
report suggesting the island was doing so. 
    Adding to the cheer in Asian markets, China's trade data for
December beat forecasts with exports rising for the first time
since July 2019 and imports rising 16.3% from a year earlier.

    The Thai baht pared losses from a decline of 0.3%
earlier in the session, after the Bank of Thailand's (BOT)
briefing ended with no surprises. 
    A deputy central bank governor said on Tuesday that BoT is
still concerned about the strength of the baht and is ready to
take further action if necessary.
    Baht's outperformance is a thorn in the side of the
authorities as this is inconsistent with weak macro conditions,
said Radhika Rao, economist at DBS Group.
    The unit was the best performing currency in Asia last year,
advancing about 8% against the dollar. 
    The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against
the dollar at 0432 GMT.
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              110.040     109.93        -0.10
 Sing dlr               1.346       1.3463        +0.00
 Taiwan dlr             29.886      29.952        +0.22
 Korean won             1153.400    1156          +0.23
 Baht                   30.240      30.23         -0.03
 Peso                   50.520      50.46         -0.12
 Rupiah                 13655.000   13665         +0.07
 Rupee                  70.855      70.86         +0.01
 Ringgit                4.060       4.061         +0.02
 Yuan                   6.874       6.8925        +0.27
 Change so far in 2020                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2019      Pct Move
 Japan yen              110.040     108.61        -1.30
 Sing dlr               1.346       1.3444        -0.14
 Taiwan dlr             29.886      30.106        +0.74
 Korean won             1153.400    1156.40       +0.26
 Baht                   30.240      29.91         -1.09
 Peso                   50.520      50.65         +0.26
 Rupiah                 13655.000   13880         +1.65
 Rupee                  70.855      71.38         +0.74
 Ringgit                4.060       4.0890        +0.71
 Yuan                   6.874       6.9632        +1.30
 (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh