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Markets

Asian currencies rise as US stimulus push hurts dollar; BNM holds fire

  • Asian currencies and bonds have lagged as the prospect of more government spending under a Joe Biden administration pushed up US treasury yields earlier this month, reducing the appeal of some of the region's high-yielding government debt.
20 Jan, 2021

Asian currencies rose on Wednesday as the dollar came under pressure after US Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen stressed on more stimulus, while Malaysia's ringgit and shares held steady as its central bank stood pat on interest rates.

Regional currencies strengthened as the dollar backed away from a one-month high, with the South Korean won, Singapore dollar and Thai baht trading around 0.2% higher against the greenback.

In Malaysia, the ringgit traded at 4.042 per dollar, in line with levels seen in morning trade, after the country's central bank kept its overnight policy rate at a record low of 1.75%.

Five out of 15 economists in a Reuters poll had expected the move, but a majority had expected Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to cut rates to support an economy facing fresh lockdowns amid surging coronavirus cases.

Stocks in Kuala Lumpur crept up, helped by strength in the financial sector after BNM said it will extend the duration of flexibility for banking institutions to use government bonds to meet their statutory reserve needs.

"The decision was largely backed by confidence that the impact of recent lockdown measures would be manageable, and growth trajectory would turn up from second quarter onwards," said Duncan Tan, an interest rates strategist at DBS Bank.

"BNM's projections for growth to bottom by second quarter could be sooner than some expect, which could drive MYR strength over the next couple of days."

Indonesian stocks were the top gainers in regional equity markets, while the rupiah also ticked up 0.2% ahead of its own central bank meeting on Thursday.

Bank Indonesia will likely keep interest rates steady at 3.75%, a Reuters poll showed, with analysts pointing to the central bank facing the need to keep rate differentials attractive for foreign investors after a recent rise in US bond yields.

Asian currencies and bonds have lagged as the prospect of more government spending under a Joe Biden administration pushed up US treasury yields earlier this month, reducing the appeal of some of the region's high-yielding government debt.

Philippine shares pared some losses by afternoon trade, but ended lower for a fourth consecutive day, while stocks in Thailand dipped.

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