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EM ASIA FX-S. Korean won, Malaysian ringgit lead gains as dollar's ascent stalls

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By Aaron Saldanha

Dec 5 (Reuters) - Asian currencies firmed on Tuesday as last week's ascent of the U.S. dollar on the back of positive tax reform news stalled.

The dollar index , which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, fell about 0.04 percent to 93.147 at 0647 GMT after gaining about 0.3 percent on Monday.

"Most of the regional currencies already weakened yesterday in anticipation of the passage of the tax package by the Trump administration. Right now the classic seller's syndrome has hit...which resulted in the dollar giving up some of its gains," said Manny Cruz, an analyst with Asiasec Equities Inc in Manila.

Strength in Asian currencies was broad-based with most currencies firming against the greenback.

Taiwan's dollar firmed 0.13 percent on Tuesday ahead of data expected to show inflation at 0.26 percent, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.

The Philippine peso firmed about 0.13 percent as November inflation matched expectations of 3.3 percent. The currency had eased for the previous two trading sessions against the dollar. India's rupee was flat ahead of a central bank monetary policy committee meeting due on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's rupiah and the Singapore dollar firmed 0.06 percent and 0.04 percent, respectively.

KOREAN WON

The South Korean won firmed 0.27 percent, the most in Asia. Data issued on Tuesday showed South Korea's foreign exchange reserves edged up to $387.25 billion in November, versus $384.46 billion at the end of October.

A currency trader at a local bank said the won had strengthened because exporters were switching long dollar exposures back to won. He added that he expected the trend to continue further into the week.

The currency is the region's top performer against the greenback for the year so far, firming 11.23 percent.

CHINESE YUAN

China's yuan firmed 0.04 percent on Tuesday, shrugging off a weaker midpoint and the launch of a new yuan trading system. The official China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), overseen by the People's Bank Of China (PBOC), launched a new yuan system of matching orders for USD/CNY trades among market-makers on Monday, in an attempt to improve efficiency.

China's central bank set its official yuan midpoint at 6.6113 per dollar, lowering it for a seventh straight trading day and marking the longest weakening run since mid-November. MALAYSIAN RINGGIT

The Malaysian ringgit moved closer to the psychologically significant level of 4 ringgit to the dollar, firming 0.15 percent to levels last seen in September, 2016.

Malaysia is due to report trade data on Wednesday, with economists polled by Reuters expecting the trade balance to jump to a 10.4 billion ringgit surplus from the 8.6 billion ringgit surplus reported for September.

"The Malaysian Central Bank has sounded overtly hawkish of late and appears more open to a stronger currency to ward off potential inflation," Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading for Oanda, wrote in a note.

"Given the market is baking in a January rate hike with a likely Q2 or Q3 follow up, the MYR (ringgit) will become much more sensitive to economic data for the next few months."

The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0643 GMT.

CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0643 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 112.64 112.4 -0.21 Sing dlr 1.3466 1.3472 +0.04 Taiwan dlr 29.996 30.036 +0.13 Korean won 1086 1088.7 +0.27 Peso 50.600 50.665 +0.13 Rupiah 13517 13525 +0.06 Rupee 64.38 64.37 -0.01 Ringgit 4.054 4.06 +0.15 Yuan 6.614 6.6166 +0.04

Change so far in 2017 Currency Latest bid End 2016 Pct Move Japan yen 112.64 117.07 +3.93 Sing dlr 1.3466 1.4490 +7.60 Taiwan dlr 29.996 32.279 +7.61 Korean won 1086 1207.70 +11.23 Peso 50.600 49.72 -1.74 Rupiah 13517 13470 -0.35 Rupee 64.375 67.92 +5.51 Ringgit 4.054 4.4845 +10.62 Yuan 6.614 6.9467 +5.04 (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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