Asian currencies hobbled by absence of catalysts, lingering trade worries

Asian currencies hobbled by absence of catalysts, lingering trade worries

SINGAPORE,. Most Asian currencies struggled for traction today as the backdrop of an US-driven international trade war and the absence of positive catalysts kept investor sentiment largely in check.

The Philippine peso, which has been hovering around 12-year lows, came under more strain as the nation’s trade deficit widened further in May.

“Trade war risk is likely to linger in the background as countries start to introduce measures to prepare for tariffs staying for a potentially longer-than-expected period,” Mizuho said in a note.

The US dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies hovered around June’s lows, up just a touch on the day at 94.181, mainly capped by disappointing wages growth in an otherwise solid US payrolls report on Friday.

The Chinese yuan pushed higher for the second day, up 0.1 per cent to 6.605 on the US dollar, helped by the combination of a firmer official yuan fixing, a broadly softer greenback and some easing of Sino-US trade tensions.

While both China and the United States hit each other’s goods with tariffs on Friday, the focus now is on whether the dispute would ratchet up further or if officials in Beijing and Washington will find a way to ease off the tense trade relations.

Data earlier in the day showed China’s producer inflation, a gauge of industrial profitability, rose by a stronger-than-expected 4.7 per cent in June. The worry is that an uptick in factory-gate prices could put more pressure on the country’s exporters as trade dispute with the US prolongs.

The Indian rupee eased 0.1 per cent to 68.790.

A Reuters poll showed inflation is likely to rise to a near two-year high in June, a development that would strengthen calls for more monetary tightening by the central bank.

Deficit woes hit Philippine peso

The Philippine peso gave up 0.2 per cent to 53.483 after data showed the country’s trade deficit widened in May to a five-month high as exports shrunk.

The import-driven trade gap is expected to worsen the country’s current account deficit this year, and cast further pressure on the peso, which is one of Asia’s worst performers so far this year.

“The deterioration in the external position in the Philippines is one of the key causes for the peso weakness and with no signs of any improvement in the trade balance, I expect the peso to remain under pressure,” said Khoon Goh, ANZ’s head of Asia research.

Goh tips the peso to weaken to 54 on the US dollar by year-end.

The Philippine central bank expects a current account deficit of US$3.1 billion (RM12.5 billion) at the end of the year, wider than an earlier forecast of US$700 million, and higher than the previous year’s US$2.52 billion gap.

Ringgit outperforms before central bank meet

The Malaysian ringgit rose to 4.009 per US dollar, a day ahead of Bank Negara Malaysia’s policy meeting, where interest rates are expected to remain unchanged.

As a net oil exporter, rising prices “will benefit exports for Malaysia and hence that’s helped to provide an additional kick for the ringgit today,” ANZ’s Goh said.

Analysts say that with the abolishment of the goods and services tax, there’s little inflationary pressure to trouble Governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus in his first policy meeting, even as other regional central banks hiked rates to bolster their respective currencies.

The ringgit has outperformed its South-east Asian peers in the region, amid an exodus from emerging markets as rising trade tensions have turned investors risk-averse.

— Reuters