(Adds details, updates prices) * Taiwan dollar up after strong March export orders * Thai baht underperforms regional currencies * Others modestly higher ahead of France's Presidential elections By Aparajita Saxena April 21 (Reuters) - Asian currencies were modestly higher on Friday with trading characterised by caution ahead of the first round of the French Presidential election this weekend.
Former French finance minister, Emmanuel Macron maintained a slim lead in polls, but the election remains a four-way battle in the first round vote on April 23.
The yuan, ringgit and rupiah climbed on Friday.
Elsewhere, the Taiwan dollar and the South Korean won rose on the back of solid exports data.
Financial markets were firmly focused on the French vote. Should Macron rank first or second in Sunday's election, he is seen easily winning the runoff vote on May 7 after remaining candidates are eliminated.
However, after surprises in last year's U.S. election and the Brexit referendum, investors are nervous that the outcome could catch markets wrong-footed yet again.
"Asian currencies are slightly wary of the French presidential election outcome, but are reacting more to the U.S. dollar move which is in turn moving on the euro," said Santanat Wongkaittaworn, Treasury officer with Mizuho Bank Ltd.
The euro held near a three-week high against the dollar as some traders closed out bets made on the grounds that the common currency would fall ahead of or after the election.
The dollar rose slightly in Asian trading, against a basket of major currencies.
Wongkaittaworn said Asian currencies may appreciate next week and believes volatility will be contained.
In other markets, the rupee fell against the dollar and was on track for a second week of losses.
The Singapore dollar, however, seemed on track for a second week of gains ahead of March CPI data on Monday.
Overall, investors reduced bullish bets on most Asian currencies and turned bearish on the South Korean won, a Reuters poll showed, as geopolitical tensions over North Korea dampened appetite for risk.
TAIWAN DOLLAR The Taiwan dollar rose 0.23 percent to 30.338 on the U.S. dollar, building on gains for the second session after data showed export orders rose for the eight straight month in March.
Exports growth was supported by robust demand for components of Apple Inc's new iPhone and other tech gadgets.
The currency is on track for a second-week of gains.
SOUTH KOREAN WON The won rose 0.36 percent to 1135.700 versus the dollar, and snapped two weeks of losses, after stong exports data.
The gain in exports "highlights that recovery in its (South Korea's) external environment remains on track," an OCBC note said.
THAI BAHT The baht fell 0.32 percent to 34.370 and was on track for its worst daily performance in over a month, pressured by foreign selling in equities and the government bond market.
CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR; CHANGE AT 0510 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 109.200 109.31 +0.10 Sing dlr 1.397 1.3975 +0.04 Taiwan dlr 30.338 30.408 +0.23 Korean won 1135.700 1139.8 +0.36 Baht 34.370 34.259 -0.32 Peso 49.745 49.83 +0.17 Rupiah 13315.000 13322 +0.05 Rupee 64.580 64.56 -0.03 Ringgit 4.393 4.396 +0.07 Yuan 6.879 6.8840 +0.07 Change so far Currency Latest bid End 2016 Pct Move Japan yen 109.200 117.07 +7.21 Sing dlr 1.397 1.4490 +3.73 Taiwan dlr 30.338 32.279 +6.40 Korean won 1135.700 1207.70 +6.34 Baht 34.370 35.80 +4.16 Peso 49.745 49.72 -0.05 Rupiah 13315.000 13470 +1.16 Rupee 64.580 67.92 +5.17 Ringgit 4.393 4.4845 +2.08 Yuan 6.879 6.9467 +0.99 (Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)