Asian currencies had the best week since September 2012, led by Indonesia’s rupiah and India’s rupee, as signs the US economic recovery is losing pace fueled speculation the Federal Reserve will slow stimulus cuts.
The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index rose 0.8 percent in the past five days as concern eased that Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine would prompt a broader conflict. US companies added fewer jobs last month than economists estimated, according to a private report on Wednesday, while official figures released the same day showed growth in service industries also missed estimates, signaling frigid winter temperatures have caused the world’s largest economy to struggle.
“Overall the US data has been surprising on the downside because of the bad weather,” said Sim Moh Siong, a foreign-exchange strategist at Bank of Singapore. “This had led to some expectation that perhaps the Fed may be less aggressive in terms of tapering. This has benefited Asian currencies, especially high-yielding ones like the rupiah and the rupee. Risk sentiment improved as the Ukraine crisis cooled.”
The rupiah jumped 1.5 percent this week to 11,440 per US dollar in Jakarta. The rupee climbed 1.2 percent to 61.05, Thailand’s baht rose 0.9 percent to 32.266 and the Malaysian ringgit advanced 0.6 percent to 3.2578.
The New Taiwan dollar gained 0.2 percent to NT$30.302 this week, following its peers in the region, dealers said.
A stronger Chinese yuan after the People’s Bank of China hiked its reference rate against the US dollar, coupled with foreign institutional investors’ buying of Taiwanese stocks, also weighed on the US dollar, they said.
Global funds bought a combined US$558 million more stocks than they sold so far this week in India, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, while they purchased a net US$562 million of bonds in India and Thailand, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The yuan strengthened 0.31 percent this week to 6.1260 per US dollar in Shanghai, according to China Foreign Exchange Trade System prices.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s won rose 0.6 percent to 1,060.82 per US dollar and the Philippine peso advanced 0.6 percent to 44.385. The Vietnamese dong was steady from a week ago at 21,100.
The US dollar, however, rallied to a six-week high against the yen after the US Labor Department reported on Friday that non-farm payrolls (NFP) increased 175,000 last month, compared with the median estimate of 149,000 in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
“The market was relatively surprised by the strong NFP data and the [US] dollar has benefited,” Charles St-Arnaud, a foreign-exchange strategist at Nomura Holdings, said in a phone interview. “Everyone had already lowered their expectations this week. If anything, it continues to shows that the Fed should continue in the same direction and that tapering should continue.”
The dollar gained 0.2 percent to ￥103.28 in New York, reaching the strongest level since Jan. 23.
The euro retained its strength this week, reaching its highest level in more than two years versus the US dollar as bets on further European Central Bank stimulus waned, boosting demand for the 18-nation currency.
The euro added 0.1 percent to US$1.3875 after touching US$1.3915, the highest level since Oct. 31, 2011. The shared currency gained 0.3 percent to ￥143.33.
The pound fell against the euro this week, touching an almost one-month low, as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi refrained from adding stimulus, dampening the relative allure of the British currency.
The pound slid 0.6 percent to ￡0.8295 per euro in London on Friday, after touching ￡0.8301, the weakest level since Feb. 11. It fell 0.2 percent to US$1.6720 after reaching US$1.6786 on Friday, the highest since Feb. 17.