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Emerging currencies lifted by oil, equity market rebound

Malaysia's annual inflation rate likely increased slightly to 2.7 per cent in December, a Reuters poll showed, as rising costs for consumer goods offset declining fuel prices.

[TOKYO] Emerging currencies climbed on Friday as investors moved into riskier assets following a rebound on key equity markets and as oil prices rallied from multi-year lows.

The advances came towards the end of another volatile week across trading floors, where have seen trillions wiped off valuations since the beginning of the year.

Confidence was given a boost by Wall Street's rally Thursday, which came on the back of a recovery in oil prices after falling below US$30 for the first time in 12 years.

With most Asia equities markets pushing higher, dealers sought out riskier, higher-yielding, currencies in favour of the dollar.

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Oil-reliant Malaysia's ringgit climbed 0.30 per cent, while the Taiwan dollar gained 0.24 per cent and the Thai baht put on 0.15 per cent. South Korea's under-pressure won added 0.12 per cent.

The greenback also edged down to 117.87 yen from 118.06 yen Thursday in New York, while the euro rose to US$1.0878 against US$1.0865. The single currency slipped to 128.24 yen from 128.27 yen.

Besides higher oil prices, sentiment was lifted by comments emphasising worries about low inflation from James Bullard, head of the Federal Reserve's St Louis branch.

His comments suggested the Fed - which holds a meeting later this month - might be cautious about additional rate hikes after increasing the federal funds rate for the first time in nine years in December.

Investors are also awaiting the European Central Bank's policy meeting next week after it unveiled fresh monetary policy measures last month that were widely dismissed as underwhelming.

Many analysts are betting on a stronger dollar this year as the Fed tightens policy - a plus for the unit - while its European and Japanese counterparts move in the opposite direction.

But "there are some doubts there may be any further (easing) on the cards" from Europe, Neil Jones, head of hedge-fund sales at Mizuho Bank, told Bloomberg News.

"If the ECB doesn't ease further then the sovereign divergence closes up. Hence the euro is higher."