Singapore dollar at 3-week high on safe-haven plays

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Singapore dollar hit a near three-week high on Tuesday as global risk aversion fuelled safe-haven demand, leading gains among emerging Asian currencies as the region is seen better positioned than other emerging markets.

The Malaysian ringgit advanced on bids linked to daily fixing and with the central bank spotted intervening to support the currency, traders said.

Indonesia's rupiah gained as foreign banks and state-run lenders bought it ahead of a bond auction on Wednesday. The Thai baht rose as investors continued to cover short positions.

That compared to losses in other emerging market currencies such as the Brazilian real and the Turkish lira.

"Asia shouldn't suffer as much fallout as other emerging market regions. And of course a fair degree of bad news is already in the price," said Jonathan Cavenagh, senior FX strategist with Westpac in Singapore.

Still, it is premature to add bullish bets on emerging Asian currencies, given growing risk aversion, analysts and traders said.

United States manufacturing activity slowed sharply in January and China's factory growth eased to an expected six-month low.

"The market bias remains to buy dips in USD/Asia and that seems unlikely to change in the near term," Cavenagh said.

"We have to wait for a turnaround in data momentum within the Asia region and a softer US picture to emerge, which may calm fears about an aggressive tapering schedule."

The Singapore dollar rose 0.4 per cent to 1.2703 to the US dollar, its strongest since Jan 15, as investors sought safer assets in Asia with the city-state's triple A ratings.

The currency found more support from demand against the ringgit and the baht. The ringgit fell to its lowest since July 1998 to the Singapore dollar.

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