Most emerging Asian currencies edged up on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled a cautious approach to interest rate hikes, but then continuing Brexit fears pared the gains of many regional units.
Emerging Asian currencies, however, lost ground against the yen as the Japanese currency broadly rallied after the central bank refrained from further easing. The Indonesian rupiah led gains among emerging Asian units against the dollar as the country offers one of the highest yields in the region. South Korea’s won rose on the broad weakness in the greenback, while investors shrugged off the government decision to relax banks’ foreign currency forward rule.
The Fed said on Wednesday slower economic growth would crimp the pace of monetary policy tightening in future years, although it signalled plans to raise interest rates twice this year after keeping them unchanged at the Federal Open Market Committee. Such a stance could help investors seek higher yields in emerging Asia, but immediate risks surrounding Britain’s June 23 referendum on staying in or leaving the European Union kept investors from adding bullish bets on regional currencies.
“It is better to buy dollar against emerging Asian currencies on dips amid hovering uncertainties over the Brexit despite the dovish FOMC statement,” said Qi Gao, an emerging Asian currency strategist for Scotiabank in Singapore. Investors who want or need to hedge the event of a “leave” may sell the won and the Singapore dollar against the safe-haven yen or the U.S. dollar, Gao said. Scotiabank’s base case is that the U.K. will stay in the EU.
The South Korean currency is seen as more vulnerable to external turmoil, while the city-state’s unit is estimated to trade above the centre of Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate’s policy band, he added. RUPIAH The rupiah advanced in both spot and non-deliverable forwards markets as most Indonesian government bond prices rose. Investors were awaiting the central bank monetary policy decision later in the day.
Most economists expect Bank Indonesia to leave all interest rates unchanged, but a significant minority sees a cut after its governor’s recent indication of possible easing. The official Jakarta Interbank Spot Dollar Rate, which the central bank introduced in 2013 to manage exchange rate fluctuations, was fixed at 13,327, firmer than the prior 13,398. WON The won rose as traders added bearish dollar bets after the Fed’s comments.
The South Korean currency cut some of its earlier gains as importers bought dollars for payments, causing traders to cover those positions. Investors showed muted reaction to the government’s easing on the forward regulation, which stemmed from concerns over capital outflows. South Korea said it will raise the cap on the foreign currency forward positions that foreign banks can hold to 200 percent of their capital from the current 150 percent, starting from July.
For local banks, the ceiling will be increased to 40 percent from the current 30 percent. “We have not cared about the rule for a long time,” said a foreign bank currency trader in Seoul. “Simply speaking, we cannot do anything with the dollar here. Global regulations hurt arbitrage chances and returns are so low that here we can find few reasons for trading.”