Asian currencies and stocks logged gains on Wednesday as concerns eased over the potential impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant, with the Thai baht scaling a near two-week high on brighter prospects for the tourism-reliant economy.
Equities in the region were broadly positive, with India's Nifty 50 advancing more than 1% after the central bank kept its key lending rate steady at record lows, while Thailand's benchmark added as much as 0.7%.
Indications that Omicron may be less severe than earlier feared, combined with news of China's monetary stimulus this week, has buoyed risk appetite in the region.
"The Omicron issue may just be a passing shower. None of the developments this week have proven otherwise," analysts at Singapore bank OCBC said in a note.
"Near-term, expect to see an ongoing reversal of the risk-off trades put on last week, with the cyclicals likely to continue outperforming on risk dynamics."
The Thai baht strengthened 0.4% to hit 33.45 per US dollar, its highest since Nov. 26, while the Malaysian ringgit was up 0.3%, marking its best intraday jump since the end of last month.
Elsewhere, South Korea's won firmed 0.4%, marking its best day this month, while Indonesia's rupiah and Singapore dollar both rose slightly.
The Indian rupee weakened to its lowest level since mid-October after the Reserve Bank of India's monetary policy committee (MPC) stood pat on its key lending rate, as expected, while also gauging the impact of the Omicron variant.
"Believe the MPC will need to take note of resilient domestic demand and high input inflation going forward and pave the way for normalisation of crisis-level monetary policy while still maintaining an accommodative stance i.e. negative real policy rates," Prithviraj Srinivas, chief economist at Axis Capital, said.
Meanwhile, China's yuan hit an over three-year peak after the central bank set its daily fixing at a more than six-month high. Earlier this week, China, the region's top trading partner, cut the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve, its second such move this year.
Among regional equities, Indonesian shares added about 0.5%, South Korea's KOSPI advanced 1.5% to hit its highest since late-October, while Singaporean equities lost 0.2%.
Markets in the Philippines were closed for a public holiday.
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