Hawkish Fed, weak China PMI hurt Asia FX; rupiah dips before election ruling

Written by Reuters | Singapore | Updated: Aug 21 2014, 19:31pm hrs
Most emerging Asian currencies eased on Thursday after minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's July meeting sounded slightly hawkish and a survey increased concerns about slowing of the Chinese economy.

The Indonesian rupiah slipped ahead of the Constitutional Court's ruling over the last month presidential election result later in the day.

China's yuan snapped a six-day winning streak as a preliminary private survey showed growth in the factory sector in the world's second-largest economy slowed to a three-month low in August due to moderating output and new orders.

The Thai baht and the Malaysian ringgit slid as investors covered short positions in the dollar, which hit an 11-month high against a basket of six major currencies.

The minutes of the Fed's July 29-30 meeting showed policymakers debated whether interest rates should be raised earlier, given a surprisingly strong jobs market recovery, even though most officials wanted further evidence before changing their views on a timing of interest rate hikes.

That increased caution ahead of Fed Chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday at a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Still, most emerging Asian currencies pared earlier losses as investors remain interested in the region due to stronger economic fundamentals and higher yields.

"We don't see broad dollar strength against regional currencies on the very modest narrowing in yield differential," said Andy Ji, Asian currency strategist for Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Singapore.

Emerging Asian currencies have been benefiting as investors escaped from Europe where both growth and inflation faltered and came to Asia, traders and analysts have said.

BNP Paribas said it sees a renewal of interest in emerging market equities.

It said EPFR data suggested such a trend with emerging market equities having attracted $13 billion of inflows since July while developed markets have seen outflows of $24 billion over the same period.

"If the macro environment remains benign, there is scope for a long running underweight in EM vs DM to be scaled back," BNP Paribas said in a client note, adding that support for Asia currencies can be sustained. The offshore yuan, the South Korean won, the ringgit and the baht are best positioned to benefit from such a rotation, it added.


The rupiah eased as traders awaited the Constitutional Court's decision.

Last month, Indonesia's losing candidate in the presidential election Prabowo Subianto challenged the official vote result in the court.

The court is widely expected to rule against Prabowo and uphold the result the election commission's declaration that the winner was Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo.

The ruling would not necessarily mean an end of political uncertainty, said a Jakarta-based currency trader. "Prabowo will not concede and his supporters won't go quietly" said the trader, expressing concern that this could impact political stability.


The baht lost 0.3 percent to 32.07 per dollar, its weakest since Aug. 13, as local banks covered short positions in the greenback.

Traders, however, hesitated to sell the Thai currency further, given capital inflows.

On Wednesday, foreign investors bought a net 3.7 billion baht ($115.6 million) of bonds and 483.1 million baht in stocks. Currency investors shrugged off Thursday's appointment of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the May 22 coup after months of street protests, as interim prime minister.