Pre-US jobs caution weighs on Asian currencies

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies eased on Friday in subdued trading to register weekly losses ahead of United States jobs data, while the Philippine peso dipped as a low inflation reading reduced expectations of a rate hike.

The Thai baht weakened on rising political tension as government supporters planned a big rally for Saturday to counter attempts to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

Investors were waiting for the March US nonfarm payrolls later in the day to see if the economy is finally regaining its momentum after an extreme winter.

A Reuters poll showed US employers were expected to add about 200,000 jobs in March, but some investors were already betting on a bigger number because private companies had stepped up their hiring, traders said.

The dollar hovered a near five-week high against a basket of six major currencies.

A payroll number that tops expectations may spark speculation of an earlier rate hike by the Federal Reserve, pushing up the US dollar and debt yields. That would not necessarily be negative for emerging Asian currencies, though, as a healthy US economy could boost the region's exports.

"A strong figure has been factored in Asian currencies to some degree, given the dollar's strength," said Yuna Park, a currency and bond analyst at Dongbu Securities in Seoul.

"So, Asian currencies may not fall much further unless the dollar jumps from here," Park added.

For the week, most emerging Asian currencies have already eased, led by the Indian rupee, as investors took profits.

The rupee has lost 0.7 per cent against the dollar so far this week as the central bank was suspected to have intervened to stem the currency's strength.

Singapore's dollar and the Malaysian ringgit each slid 0.4 per cent, while the Thai baht and the Philippine peso were down 0.2 per cent.

The South Korean won, however, defied regional depreciation with a 1.3 per cent gain helped by stock investment inflows. The gain would be the largest weekly rise since early September, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Taiwan's dollar also rose 0.6 per cent.