Asian currencies tumble on robust US data; Sing$ dips 0.4%

BENGALURU • Asian currencies fell yesterday after robust US economic figures and bullish comments from the Federal Reserve boosted the US dollar, prompting sustained regional outflows.

The greenback rose about 0.3 per cent against a basket of currencies after news that American service sector activity raced to a 21-year high last month. It was further boosted when Fed chief Jerome Powell suggested that moving beyond neutral interest rates was a possibility.

Mr Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at ANZ Banking Group in Singapore, said the mix of strong United States data and the Fed chairman's comments bumped up the greenback and US bond yields, putting downward pressure on Asian currencies.

The prospect of a more aggressive Fed also rattled regional equities.

The Indian rupee plunged as much as 0.64 per cent to a fresh low of 73.813 against the US dollar after hitting an all-time low on Wednesday. Indian equities fell about 1.6 per cent. Traders said the Reserve Bank of India likely intervened to curb the rupee's fall. Indian bond yields spiked as share prices fell.

The South Korean won shed around 1 per cent against the US dollar to its weakest in more than two weeks. Weaker long-term sentiment has weighed on the won, which is closely tied to China through the South's electronics exports, which may be at risk from the US-China trade war.

Mr Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at ANZ Banking Group in Singapore, said the mix of strong United States data and the Fed chairman's comments bumped up the greenback and US bond yields, putting downward pressure on Asian currencies.

The Indonesian rupiah continued to decline, falling as much as 0.7 per cent versus the US dollar and at its weakest in more than 20 years. Indonesia's central bank governor stressed the need to raise interest rates before the Fed to avoid "drastic" capital outflows in the wake of a heavily flagged Fed hike in December.

The comments raised the possibility of another Bank Indonesian rate hike before mid-December, although it has already raised interest rates five times since mid-May. Indonesia has a large current account deficit stemming from its oil imports.

The Singapore dollar was less affected, dipping 0.4 per cent to $1.3812 per US dollar as at 2.40pm.

China's financial markets are closed for the week.

The Indian rupee is the worst performing Asian currency this year, having lost more than 13 per cent. It has been pressured this year by higher oil prices.

"Despite a stronger dollar, crude oil prices continued to remain very elevated, which is putting further pressure on current account deficit currencies that rely on oil imports, India and Indonesia specifically," said ANZ's Mr Goh. On the rupee, he said " in the near term, it doesn't look like there's any respite coming".

Oil prices stood around four-year highs yesterday. Higher prices have swollen India's current account deficit, which last stood at around 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product in the April-June quarter. India imports more than two-thirds of its oil needs. A plunging currency may prompt its central bank to hike rates for the third time since June when it meets today.

REUTERS

  • With additional information from The Straits Times
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'Asian currencies tumble on robust US data; Sing$ dips 0.4%'. Print Edition | Subscribe