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Taiwan, Philippine lead Asia share declines as US yields push higher

  • The world's two largest economies have already levelled sharp rebukes over each other's stance on key issues.
19 Mar 2021

Stock markets in Taiwan, the Philippines and China fell around 1% on Friday following a spike in US bond yields that continues to sap appetite for Asia's emerging stock and currency markets.

Indonesia's rupiah and Taiwan's dollar both fell around half a percent against a firmer greenback after their respective central banks left interest rates unchanged on Thursday.

The Korean won led the way among Asia's currencies, though, shedding 0.7%.

"Despite short-lived positive mood changers like this week's FOMC meeting, the medium-term thinking around higher US yields is holding local currency bulls at bay," said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi.

Yields on 10-year US Treasuries now stand above 1.7%, the highest they have been since January last year, and are set for a seventh straight week of increases. Investors are still digesting the Federal Reserve's pledge to keep rates near zero out to 2024 even as it lifted forecasts for economic growth and inflation.

So far "in March, most Asian spot exchange rates that we track have depreciated past their 50- and 100-day moving averages," DBS analysts said.

The rupiah - set for a fifth week of losses - has fallen nearly 4% since Feb. 16 as rising US bond yields spark global volatility and capital outflows. It was 0.4% lower on Friday.

The head of Bank Indonesia's monetary management told CNBC Indonesia on Friday that the central bank stands ready to guard against volatility in the rupiah.

It follows Bank Indonesia's decision to keep its key interest rate unchanged at a record low of 3.50%, having cut six times since the start of the pandemic, and its pledge to strengthen currency intervention.

"We expect the central bank to remain on hold in the near term despite inflation falling below the Bank's 2%-4% target, as the currency is expected to remain pressured," said Nicholas Mapa, a senior economist at ING.

In a similar move, Taiwan's central bank stood pat on interest rates, as expected, while raising the export-reliant island's economic growth forecast for the year.

The local dollar fell 0.6%, while stocks lost 1.5%.

Investors will also be watching the first high-level, in person talks between US and Chinese officials since Joe Biden took over as president. The world's two largest economies have already levelled sharp rebukes over each other's stance on key issues.

DBS analysts are paying close attention to the yuan , which they say is only 0.5% above its 100-day moving average and a close above 6.50 a dollar this week would support their call for it to depreciate beyond 6.60 by mid-year.

The yuan was trading around 6.51, dipping 0.1%, on Friday.