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Markets

EM ASIA FX-Most currencies fall as virus outbreak fuels rate-cut bets

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said its exchange rate-based monetary policy stance remained unchanged.
05 Feb 2020
  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said its exchange rate-based monetary policy stance remained unchanged.
  • The Singapore dollar fell 0.9% to trade at 1.382 per dollar, the lowest in nearly four months.
  • The Philippine peso gave up 0.3% as expectations of a rate cut by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) at its Thursday meeting continued to rise.

The Singapore dollar skidded to a near four-month low on Wednesday, leading losses among Asian currencies as markets increasingly priced in chances of rate cuts by central banks in the region to limit an economic hit from a virus outbreak.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said its exchange rate-based monetary policy stance remained unchanged, after having eased policy for the first time in three years at its last meeting in October.

However, its statement - that its currency has room to ease within its current settings to accommodate any economic hit from the virus - was viewed by markets as an indicator of potential policy easing at the next meeting in April.

In response, the Singapore dollar fell 0.9% to trade at 1.382 per dollar, the lowest in nearly four months.

"The MAS' latest comments have prompted investors to price in the prospects of monetary policy easing in Singapore, before potential confirmation during the central bank's actual policy decision in April," said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM.

"An easing bias by the central bank could further dampen SGD's performance, potentially adding to the downward pressure, given the persisting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak's impact on the global economy."

Meanwhile, rising expectations of rate cuts by most central banks in the region to fend off the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak gave stocks a leg-up, but put pressure on currencies.

The Philippine peso gave up 0.3% as expectations of a rate cut by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) at its Thursday meeting continued to rise.

Even a surprise jump in January inflation to an eight-month high failed to dent the hopes, given the figure was still well within the central bank's comfort range.

"We expect the benign inflation dynamics to afford the BSP scope to cut its policy rate at the Feb. 6 meeting to give the economy a boost to help navigate the more challenging global growth scenario," said Nicholas Mapa, a senior economist for Philippines at ING.

Along a similar vein, the Thai baht skidded 0.6%, weakening past the key 31 per dollar level, just ahead of the Bank of Thailand's policy meeting due around 0700 GMT.

A Reuters poll showed the BOT is expected to hold its benchmark rate at a record low, but a significant number of the economists participating in the poll forecast a rate cut, citing the coronavirus outbreak as a wild card in the decision.