Emerging Asian markets struggling

WESTWARD HO::With signs of US economic recovery, the Fed is likely to start cutting back on QE next month, drawing investments away from Asia and toward the West


Thu, Aug 22, 2013 - Page 15

Currencies in developing Asia struggled yesterday as concerns grow that the US Federal Reserve will soon begin to unwind its massive stimulus program, diverting cash back to the West.

Asian share markets were mixed as investors awaited the release of minutes from the Fed’s July policy meeting, anxious to see if higher US rates are in the offing, which would lessen the appeal of emerging markets.

The Indian rupee recovered slightly from the previous session’s record low, but Indonesia’s rupiah and the Thai baht faced more selling pressure as foreigners shifted back to safer assets in the West after a year-long investment splurge.

In the afternoon, Mumbai’s SENSEX share index rose 0.67 percent after losing almost 6 percent in the previous three days, while Jakarta advanced 1.43 percent, capping a four-day losing streak that has seen it shed more than 11 percent.

However, Bangkok slipped 0.44 percent.

Among Asia’s major stock markets Tokyo edged up 0.21 percent, or 27.95 points, to 13,424.33, Sydney ended up 0.43 percent, or 21.8 points, at 5,100 and Seoul closed 1.08 percent, or 20.39 points, lower at 1,867.46.

Shanghai was virtually unchanged, edging up 0.02 points to 2,072.96.

Hong Kong slipped 0.74 percent in late trade.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taipei was closed owing to the approach of Tropical Storm Trami, Manila was closed for a public holiday and Wellington shares rose 0.96 percent, or 43.15 points, to close at 4,551.51.

Analysts will read the Fed minutes closely for an idea of the board’s plans for its bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing (QE).

With the US economy showing increasing signs of strength, many analysts say the Fed the bank will start cutting down on the US$85-billion-a-month scheme next month.

Expectations of such a move have seen foreign investors in recent months repatriate some of the vast sums of cash that poured into emerging economies when QE was unveiled in September last year, in turn hitting currencies and equities.

The growing crisis has increased pressure on central banks to hike interest rates to support their currencies.

However, such a move could be counterproductive to already struggling nations such as India, where the economy is hobbled by weakening growth, as well as a huge current account deficit.

In forex trade, the rupee sank to a record low of 64.1 to the US dollar on Tuesday but clawed back slightly yesterday, strengthening to 63.44 in the afternoon.

The unit is Asia’s worst performing currency this year, losing about a fifth of its value against the dollar in the past three months, with fears over the Fed’s stimulus adding to a severe slowdown in India.

However, the Indonesian rupiah weakened to 10,690 against the US dollar — its lowest point since mid-2009 — from 10,495 on Tuesday, while Thailand’s baht sat around a one-year low of 31.73, from 31.69.

Against other major currencies the US dollar bought ¥97.48, compared with ¥97.32 in New York on Tuesday, while the euro fetched US$1.3401 and ¥130.55, against US$1.3420 and ¥130.60.

On Wall Street, shares ended mixed despite some upbeat earnings from retailers. The Dow edged slightly lower, while the S&P 500 gained 0.38 percent and the NASDAQ rose 0.68 percent.