Asia currencies see best week in months

VERY GOOD FRIDAY::The region’s currencies performed the best in more than two months as US GDP beat expectations, fueling hopes of rising demand for Asian exports

Bloomberg

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - Page 15

Asian currencies had their best week in more than two months on speculation an economic recovery in the US will boost demand for the region’s exports.

GDP in the world’s largest economy rose faster than previously estimated in the fourth quarter, while orders for durable goods climbed more than forecast last month, reports showed this week.

The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index, which tracks the 10 most active currencies in the region excluding the yen, advanced 0.2 percent since March 22.

The Asia Dollar Index lost 0.3 percent this month as global investors pulled US$2.8 billion out of the stock markets of South Korea and Taiwan amid concern Europe’s debt crisis will worsen.

In Taipei, the New Taiwan dollar climbed 0.1 percent to NT$29.875 against its US counterpart during the five-day period to Friday, Taipei Forex Inc data showed. It rose 0.2 percent at the end of trading and was 0.4 percent stronger two minutes prior to the 4pm close. The central bank has sold the currency in the run-up to the close most days in the past year, traders said.

The ringgit advanced 0.6 percent this week to 3.0938 per US dollar in Kuala Lumpur, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The Malaysian currency touched a five-week high of 3.0859 on March 25 after the central bank said last week that GDP will increase as much as 6 percent this year from 5.6 percent last year. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has embarked on a US$444 billion spending program to build railways, roads and power plants in an effort to lift the country to developed-nation status by 2020.

The yuan touched a 19-year high on Friday after the People’s Bank of China raised the reference rate to the strongest level in more than 10 months.

The Chinese central bank increased the daily fixing by 0.08 percent to 6.2689 per US dollar, the highest since May 2 last year. The yuan is allowed to trade 1 percent either side of the rate.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturing this month will be 51.2, indicating a sixth month of expansion, said a median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists before official data is announced on Monday.

The yuan advanced 0.02 percent this week to 6.2108 per US dollar, prices from the China Foreign Exchange Trade System show. The currency rose as high as 6.2086 on Friday, the strongest level since Beijing unified official and market exchange rates at the end of 1993.

South Korea’s won climbed 0.7 percent to 1,111.35, marking the first weekly gain in almost a month after data showed the country’s current account surplus widened last month.

The surplus increased to US$2.71 billion from US$2.33 billion in January, the Bank of Korea said on Thursday. The gap for this month is likely to be similar as improving exports will offset an expected rise in dividend payments to foreign investors, central bank official Cho Yong-seung said.

Elsewhere, Thailand’s baht was steady from a week earlier at 29.28 per US dollar, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Financial markets in India, Indonesia and the Philippines were closed on Friday. India’s rupee gained 0.1 percent from March 22 to 54.28 per US dollar on Thursday, while Indonesia’s rupiah advanced 0.3 percent to 9,715 and the Philippine peso rose 0.1 percent to 40.823.

The yen fetched ¥94.07 per US dollar as of 4:29pm in Tokyo on Friday. Japan’s currency climbed 0.1 percent to ¥120.52 per euro and has gained 0.3 percent this month.

The British pound had its biggest quarterly drop against the US dollar in more than four years as the economy’s contraction in the three months through December last year fueled concern of an unprecedented triple-dip recession.

Sterling declined against all but two of its 16 major counterparts in the quarter ended on Thursday. The currency trimmed declines after minutes of the Bank of England’s most recent policy meeting damped speculation for more asset purchases and as Cyprus’ financial crisis boosted demand for UK assets.

The pound slipped 6.7 percent in the first quarter to US$1.5172 on Thursday, after dropping on March 12 to US$1.4832, the weakest since June 2010. The British currency slipped 3.9 percent against the euro in the past three months to £0.8450.

The euro gained the most this week versus the US dollar as falling Spanish and Italian government bond yields signaled Cyprus’ banking crisis may be contained.

Europe’s common currency rose from a four-month low to the US dollar as Cyprus’ banks opened, with rules curbing access to cash.

The euro rose 0.3 percent to US$1.2816 on Thursday.