Asian currencies slip as easing US-China trade tensions support US dollar

The US dollar touches a new 2018 peak in a show of strength as Asian currencies slip. — Reuters pic
The US dollar touches a new 2018 peak in a show of strength as Asian currencies slip. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, May 21 — Asian currencies weakened against the US dollar today, which touched a new 2018 peak as signs of easing trade tensions between the United States and China supported the greenback against its peers.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said an agreement reached by Chinese and American negotiators on Saturday sets up a framework for addressing trade imbalances in the future.

Mnuchin's reference to trade tensions between the world's two largest economies being “on hold” supported wider risk sentiment as well as the US dollar.

“The latest statement on the China-U.S. trade suggests both parties are happy to avoid the dreaded tit-for-tat escalation while working towards a more market-friendly bilateral trade agreement,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for Oanda.

However, the easing trade tensions between US and China, while welcome, is unlikely to eclipse the other factors weighing on emerging market currencies, DBS said in a note, as oil prices continue to rise and US Treasury yields remain high.

Indonesia's rupiah extended losses, falling a further 0.3 per cent, continuing its decline after last week's interest rate hike failed to support the currency.

“If Indonesian rupiah pressures mount, this may prompt new measures from policymakers aimed at stabilising the rupiah, including further adjustment in rates,” said Mizuho Bank in a note.

The country's central bank plans to conduct three foreign exchange swaps this week to ensure liquidity, according to a senior bank official.

The South Korean won slipped 0.8 per cent to 1,086 per US dollar, ahead of the country's central bank's policy meeting later in the week.

The Indian rupee slipped to 68.08 against the US dollar, its lowest since January 2017.

Rising oil prices look set to add to India's already widening trade deficit, and have kept investors bearish on the rupee.

Thai baht

Thailand's baht slipped against the dollar, despite data showing the economy growing well above estimates in the first quarter of the year.

Nath Wongsaroj, corporate treasury trader at Mizuho Bank, said the US dollar's bullishness overshadowed the better than expected gross domestic product data.

Last week, the Bank of Thailand held its benchmark rate at a near record low to support economic growth. — Reuters