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Emerging Asia FX-Won at 2-wk high, baht softer after polls

Written by: Staff

SINGAPORE, Apr 3 (Reuters) The South Korean won hit its highest level in about two weeks on Monday on the back of dollar selling by exporters, while most other Asian currencies were a touch higher and largely shrugged off a weaker yen.

The won rose as high as 967.9 per dollar, up about 0.4 percent from Friday's domestic close, before trimming gains. Dealers said dollar selling by exporters after strong overseas shipments boosted the currency.

Analysts say that because most Korean exporters have not hedged their currency exposure, there has been a tendency to sell the dollar when it strengthens against the won.

In contrast, the Thai baht shed about 0.4 percent to about 39.95 per dollar as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra failed to claim a decisive mandate after a strong protest vote in Sunday's snap election pointed to a constitutional crisis.

But dealers said that until the final official election results are known later in the day, the baht's moves would be limited.

''The final results are not out yet and markets will be sensitive to the news flow,'' said a trader in Bangkok. ''There is room for dollar/baht to test higher but we are likely to stay in a range until the full results are known.'' Nearly 70 percent of the 399 seats at stake across Thailand were uncontested due to a boycott by the opposition and many will be left empty, lacking a minimum number of votes. That will effectively prevent a new government from being formed.

The yen , meanwhile, came under pressure after the Bank of Japan's tankan survey showed a slight deterioration in business sentiment among big manufacturers in Japan.

But yen weakness failed to have a significant impact on regional currencies, which analysts said were supported by expectations for a faster degree of appreciation in the Chinese yuan .

''Most of us are focused on the China story, which is broadening into an Asia story,'' said Philip Wee, currency strategist at DBS Bank in Singapore.

''The non-Japan Asia block is still under appreciating pressure and Japan will also join this trend at some stage.'' Dealers in Jakarta said strong foreign demand for local stocks and bonds continued to support the Indonesian rupiah.

The rupiah strengthened as far as 9,035 per dollar and within sight of 16-month peaks hit last week at around 9,000.

''There is selling pressure on dollar/rupiah from foreign banks,'' said a trader in Jakarta. ''This is still related to demand for bonds and equities.'' Reuters SY GC0840

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