Most Asian currencies firmed slightly on Thursday as the dollar’s softening after two strong sessions restored some appetite for emerging-market risk. Sentiment was further lifted by a dip in oil prices, as most major regional economies are net importers of the commodity and any fall should aid key economic indicators.
Oil-induced volatility very much remains on the table, Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank said in a note. To him, the “cat among the pigeons” for the oil market remains “complex US-Saudi geo-politics”. The Indian rupee, resuming trade after a holiday on Wednesday and gains the first two days this week, was the top gainer, firming as much as 0.5 per cent to hit a fresh 11-week high of 71.110 against the dollar.
Both the Thai baht and the Korean won strengthened as much as 0.3 per cent, but the Thai currency gave up its gains. Thailand’s central bank governor on Thursday said it sees less need for very low interest rates, which will remain accommodative even as there is policy tightening, suggesting a rate hike could still come soon. The Indonesian rupiah advanced 0.24 per cent.
The Philippine peso and the Malaysian ringgit also had marginal gains. Safe-haven currencies such as the dollar, Japanese yen and Swiss franc had been bolstered by a two-day sell-off on Wall Street but higher US stocks and a stronger euro dented the greenback. US economic data also did not help the dollar as new orders for key locally-made capital goods were unexpectedly unchanged in October, while the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose to a more than four-month high last week.
The Singapore dollar weakened slightly, falling as much as 0.1 per cent, on news Singapore’s economy expanded at a much slower pace than initially thought in the third quarter. The government flagged further moderation in the current quarter and warning that the US-Sino trade war will hurt growth in 2019. The economy grew 3.0 per cent in the July-September quarter from the previous three months on an annualised and seasonally adjusted basis, revised final figures from Ministry of Trade and Industry showed on Thursday.
OCBC Treasury Research analysts said in a note that the full impact on Singapore economy from the dual headwinds of escalation of Sino-US trade conflicts and faster-than-expected tightening of global financial conditions has been fairly muted in 2018’s second half and will be likely postponed to 2019.