Most Asian currencies, stocks tick higher ahead of US jobs report

Most Asian currencies, stocks tick higher ahead of US jobs report

* South Korean won, shares charge ahead
* Most Asian currencies higher
* Investors focus on US non-farm payrolls

By Archishma Iyer
       Feb 2 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies and stocks rose on Friday, with
the South Korean won and equities leading the way, after risk sentiment got a
boost overnight from upbeat earnings reports on Wall Street, although investors
were focused on a monthly U.S. jobs report due later in the day.
    The MSCI International Emerging Market Index rose about 0.2%
to its highest since mid-January, while the dollar index was steady at 103.01 at
0355 GMT.
    The markets see Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls data as potentially spurring
the Federal Reserve to accelerate its rate cut timeline if the numbers come in
below forecasts.
    Market participants expect the Fed's first rate cut in May, while the odds
of a March cut have fallen to 38% from more than 70% a month ago.
    Shares in Seoul were on track to mark their best day since
mid-November and the won rose as much as 0.5% against the dollar
after data showed South Korea's inflation slowed to a six-month low, even as
policymakers warned that geopolitical tensions could add to price pressures. 
    "Faster disinflation would increase the Bank of Korea's confidence in
achieving price stability in coming months, in our view. Thus, we reiterate our
view that the BOK will start rate cuts in July," Nomura analysts said in a note.
    Inflation prints from China, Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan over the
next week will also set the tone for their respective monetary policies, with
price pressures already seen to be slowing in Indonesia. 
    "While the market is likely to push the base case for the first Fed cut from
March to May in the aftermath of the January FOMC, this is unlikely to derail
any of the emerging markets easing cycles," analysts from Citi said in a client
note. 
    Central bank decisions in Thailand and India are expected to keep rates
steady in the coming days.
    The Philippine peso and the Taiwan dollar advanced about
0.3% to 0.4%, although Thailand's baht slipped about 0.1%.
    In Indonesia, which holds presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 14,
President Joko Widodo said his cabinet was working normally, amid reports of
discontent among his ministers. The rupiah rose 0.5% while Jakarta stocks
 ticked lower. 
    Among Asian equities, Singapore, Manila, Taipei and
Bangkok rose, with gains ranging from 0.3% to 1.6%. 

    HIGHLIGHTS:    
    ** Indonesia's benchmark 10-year bond yield steady at 6.545% 
    ** Singapore's DBS to merge capital markets, brokerage with treasury markets
    ** INSIGHT-Ahead of election, Pakistan seals plan to sell national airline 
    
    
 Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0355 GMT
 COUNTRY      FX RIC           FX   FX YTD    INDEX  STOCKS  STOCKS
                          DAILY %        %            DAILY   YTD %
                                                          %  
 Japan                      +0.03    -3.63              0.8    8.36
 China                      +0.01    -1.14            -0.72   -7.54
 India                      +0.14    +0.43             0.53    0.37
 Indonesia                  +0.54    -1.79            -0.29   -1.26
 Malaysia                   +0.00    -2.90             0.43    4.45
 Philippines                +0.30    -0.92             1.62    4.34
 S.Korea                    +0.41    -2.90             2.09   -2.25
 Singapore                  +0.07    -1.21             1.16   -1.88
 Taiwan                     +0.43    -1.51             0.37    0.57
 Thailand                   -0.11    -3.35             1.10   -2.32
 
 (Reporting by Archishma Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Klamann)
  

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