Emerging Asian currencies slide on rate rise speculation

Most emerging Asian currencies slipped yesterday as top US Federal Reserve officials continued to fuel expectations of an imminent rise in US interest rates.

China's yuan, however, gained as the central bank was spotted intervening to support the currency, traders said.

The Indonesian rupiah touched a 3½-month low on suspected US dollar demand linked to bond outflows. The Malaysian ringgit fell to its weakest in more than two months as falling crude prices underscored concerns over the country's oil and gas revenues.

Thailand's baht stayed near a 3½- month trough after foreign investors sold local bonds on Monday.

The South Korean won hit a two-month low as offshore funds dumped the currency on the US dollar's overall strength.

The Singdollar touched a two- month low to trade at 1.3832 against the US dollar as leveraged funds unloaded it.

Philadelphia Fed president Patrick Harker said on Monday that a rate hike in June would be appropriate unless data weakens, while St Louis Fed president James Bullard said holding rates too low for too long could cause financial instability.

San Francisco Fed president John Williams also said the US central bank is on track to hike borrowing costs in June or July despite risks, including Britain's possible exit from the European Union.

Fed chair Janet Yellen is due to deliver remarks on Friday. Odds of higher rates next month are now at 32 per cent, up from 4 per cent a week ago.

"FOMC repricing may continue to ensue with yield differential arguments continuing to lend support to the dollar - a near-term view that we continue to ascribe to," said Mr Emmanuel Ng, foreign exchange strategist at OCBC Bank in a note, referring to the Federal Open Market Committee.

Emerging Asian currencies are likely to stay significantly vulnerable to a stronger dollar and risk aversion, Mr Ng said.

The rupiah fell 0.6 per cent to 13,660 to the US dollar, its weakest since Feb 9, as some major European banks sold the Indonesian currency, which traders suspect was linked to bond outflows.

Indonesia's central bank was suspected of intervening to stem the rupiah's weakness around the session low, traders said.

The ringgit lost as much as 1.1 per cent to 4.1290 to the dollar, its weakest since March 16, as most Malaysian government bond prices slipped, while the Thai baht was trading at 35.74 against the greenback.

The won fell 0.8 per centto 1,192.70 per dollar at the 3pm close in Seoul, the biggest decline since March 9, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg.  The currency has weakened 4.5 per cent this month, the worst performer in Asia after Malaysia's ringgit.

The Philippine peso lost at least 0.3 per cent to trade at 46.88 and India's rupee lost at least 0.4 per cent to trade at 67.75. China's yuan was at 6.5553 against the greenback.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Emerging Asian currencies slide on rate rise speculation'. Print Edition | Subscribe