EMERGING MARKETS-Travel stocks boost Singapore, Asian currencies ease
By Anushka Trivedi
Feb 16 (Reuters) - Aviation and tourism stocks dominated gains in Singapore on Tuesday after the city-state pledged more fiscal support for the hard-hit sectors, while a likely flare-up in U.S.-China tensions pressured most Asian currencies.
Singapore's 2021 budget unveiled S$11 billion ($8.31 billion) for COVID-19 relief and S$870 million in aid for the aviation sector, sending the Straits Times Index .STI 0.5% higher a day after the economy posted a smaller-than-expected contraction in the fourth quarter.
Shares of Singapore Airlines SIAL.SI climbed 1.4% to top the index, while in-flight catering service provider SATS Ltd SATS.SI rose 1%.
DBS analysts expect the 2021 budget deficit target to be between S$10 billion and S$12 billion, sharply down from the record S$74.2 billion figure pencilled in last year to aid the economy. The official figure was yet to be released as the presentation was ongoing.
In line with global markets, hopes that vaccine progress would aid an economic recovery kept all Asian equities in the black, with Philippine shares .PSI climbing 1.2% to lead gains.
On the flip side, the Singapore dollar SGD=, the Philippine peso PHP= and the Indonesian rupiah IDR= fell after the offshore yuan CNH=D3 weakened on media reports that Beijing may curb exports of rare earth minerals that are crucial to U.S. defence contractors.
The development threatens to worsen ties between the two economic giants, which are yet to show any signs of improvement under U.S. President Joe Biden's administration.
The rupiah was also hit by investors pricing in a likely 25 basis point interest rate cut at the Bank Indonesia's (BI) meeting on Thursday.
Meanwhile, South Korea's won KRW=KFTC rose for a fifth day and the benchmark stock index KOSPI .KS11 closed at a three-week high as its government struck a deal with Novavax NVAX.O and Pfizer PFE.N to get vaccines for 23 million more people.KRW/
China and Taiwan's financial markets were closed for a holiday.
** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields are up 5.1 basis points at 6.297%
** Thailand .SETI and Indonesia .JKSE shares up 0.3%
** Top gainers on the Jakarta stock index .JKSE include MNC Land Tbk PT KPIG.JK, up 34.3%, and Bank Bumi Arta Tbk PT BNBA.JK, up 24.7%
Asia stock indexes and currencies at 0759 GMT
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($1 = 1.3231 Singapore dollars)
(Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)
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