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Most Asian Stocks Firm, S.Korea Shares Drop 1%

  • South Korea shelves plan to relax virus curbs
  • China Nov factory activity surprises on the upside, yuan firms
  • Singapore shares set for sixth day of losses
  • Philippine equity markets shut for a holiday

Nov 30 (Reuters) - Most Asian equities gained on Tuesday, rebounding from an Omicron coronavirus variant-led selloff, but South Korean shares hit a near 1-year low after chip shortages dented domestic factory output.

Also buoying local stocks was an unexpected jump in the region's top trade partner China's factory activity as raw material prices fell and power rationing abated. The yuan responded with a 0.3% rise.

Stock markets in Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia were all up between 0.3% to 1%, as investors hoped that Omicron might not cause widespread global economic damage.

Wall Street closed sharply higher on Monday, reacting to reassurances from U.S. President Joe Biden that new lockdowns related to the Omicron variant were off the table for now.

"The market ... seemed to take heart from the confident comments by the authorities and also from the idea that the more transmissible, but less virulent nature potentially makes Omicron more similar to the endemic flu," OCBC analysts wrote in a note.

However, Singapore stocks were subdued, set for their sixth day of losses as the city-state confronted the prospect that newly relaxed COVID-19 restrictions could be reinstated.

South Korea's KOSPI slid 1.3% after the Asian trade bellwether said factory output in October shrank at its sharpest pace in nearly 1-1/2 years and missed estimates as car production contracted materially.

South Korea is also grappling with a rise in hospitalisation and death rates from the virus, which prompted local authorities late on Monday to shelve plans to relax COVID-19 curbs due to the strain on the country's healthcare system. 

However, the Korean won jumped 0.5% to be the top gaining regional currency as the greenback retreated in the Asian trading session in tandem with improving risk sentiment.

The Asian complex was attempting a comeback after being sold off heavily on Friday, with the exception of the Thai baht, which was set for an eighth straight day of decline.

Philippine equity markets were closed for a holiday.


** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are up 2.5 basis points at 6.247%​​

** Singapore's 5-year benchmark yield is down 4.2 basis points at 1.36%

** Top losers on the Singapore STI include: Singapore Exchange Ltd, down 2%, and Thai Beverage PCL, down 1.5%

Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Source: Reuters

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