SINGAPORE, March 7 — Most Asian currencies firmed today as the US dollar weakened as the news US President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn is resigning caused fears of fresh tariffs and a trade war.
While equities in Asia slipped as the likelihood of US-imposed steel and aluminium tariffs resurged in the wake of Cohn’s resignation, the US dollar’s weakness helped many Asian currencies firm.
The US dollar index, measuring the currency against a group of currencies, was at 89.47, near the two-week low hit yesterday.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.3 per cent on the day.
“There are some concerns of trade tensions escalating into a trade war…hence the response seen in equity markets,” said Christopher Wong, an FX strategist with Maybank.
“However, foreign exchange markets are not so clear cut.”
The South Korean won was the region’s biggest gainer for the second day as it firmed 0.65 per cent; following about 0.57 per cent gain yesterday. North Korea’s potential denuclearisation move has supported the currency in the past few days.
Wong said the currency’s movement was a trade-off between “geopolitical tensions easing versus trade tensions rising.”
The ringgit gained for a second straight day, ahead of Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) meeting later today. It firmed 0.03 per cent.
The consensus remains that the central bank will not raise the overnight policy rate but its relative rate path transparency means traders are likely to closely watch BNM’s forward guidance.
China’s yuan weakened as much as 0.34 per cent, the most since March 1. The country is a major steel producer and a frequent target of US President Trump’s trade rhetoric.
The Chinese central bank set the strongest daily fix since Feb 28 at 6.3294 per US dollar. The yuan had firmed slightly yesterday as trade war fears temporarily subsided.
Meanwhile, in the special administrative region of Hong Kong, the local dollar saw a fresh all-time low of 7.835 to the US dollar, weakening for the fifth straight session.
“While the tariffs have yet to be signed into law, it has become increasingly clear that America’s major trading partners are unlikely to tolerate US trade protectionism,” said Eugene Leow, rates strategist, and Philip Wee, FX strategist, at DBS Bank, in a note. They cited possible European retaliation as fuelling a further escalation of trade tensions.
“Risk sentiment is likely to be heavily dictated by how far Trump is willing to go with his protectionist stance.”
While, the Indonesian rupiah firmed 0.06 per cent, the Indian rupee and Singapore dollar traded flat.
The Taiwan dollar was 0.14 per cent firmer ahead of inflation and trade data being released later today.
Exports for February are expected to grow for a 17th straight consecutive month, albeit at a slower rate, according to a poll of analysts by Reuters.
Inflation in February is forecast to have climbed to 1.6 per cent from a year earlier, up from 0.88 per cent growth in January, the poll showed.
The Philippine peso recovered from early falls to firm 0.05 per cent. At worst, it touched its lowest in a week.
Inflation in February quickened as per data released yesterday. The prospects of the central bank on March 22 raising rates make for the Philippine peso being a much watched currency in the fortnight ahead. — Reuters
Source: The Malay Mail Online