Most emerging Asian currencies extended losses on Thursday as China accelerated the yuan's depreciation, heightening concerns over the world's second-largest economy and the risk of a regional currency war. Asian stocks also slumped to a three-month low as Shanghai shares' lost over 7 percent and trading was halted with the fall triggering a circuit breaker despite recent supportive measures from Chinese authority.
The People's Bank of China set its daily yuan guidance rate 0.5 percent weaker than the previous fix - the largest fall since a near 2 percent devaluation in August. It was the eighth day in row that the PBOC has set a lower guidance rate. The move pushed onshore renminbi to a near five-year low. Offshore yuan also hit its weakest since offshore trading started in 2010.
"It's looking more like it," said Sean Yokota, head of Asia strategy for Scandinavian bank SEB in Singapore, when asked whether China's action raised the risk of a 'currency war', or - competitive currency devaluations. But, other Asian central banks may not have to engineer weakness in their currencies, as they will come under pressure in any case as a result of the weakening yuan, Yokota said. "They are probably already not intervening as much on FX weakness as CNY moves," he added, referring to other Asian central banks.
The Malaysian ringgit hit a three-month low as sliding crude prices added to concerns over the country's falling oil and gas revenues. November exports growth missed expectations. Thailand's baht slid on stock outflows. And the South Korean won slumped to a near four-month trough on a weaker yuan, before suspected intervention by South Korean authorities induced a partial recovery.
The ringgit slumped as much as 0.7 percent to 4.4250 per dollar, its weakest since October 2. Most government bond prices and Kuala Lumpur shares slid. "Oil prices are dropping every day, so everybody bought dollars in panic and fear," said a senior Malaysian bank trader in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia's exports in November rose much more slowly than expected on a tumble in earnings from liquefied natural gas (LNG) and weakening demand for its electronics products. The baht eased 0.3 percent to 36.33 per dollar, its weakest since October 6, as Bangkok shares lost as much as 2 percent on continuous foreign selling. Most of Thailand's government bond prices edged up with foreigners' recent demand, but currency traders doubted if inflows into bonds would be sustained if the baht was expected to decline further.
Thai importers also bought the dollar. The won lost as much as 0.5 percent to 1,203.7 per dollar, its weakest since September 8. The South Korean currency pared most of the losses after suspected intervention by foreign exchange authorities spurred local exporters into "actively" buying the won for settlements on dips, traders said.