January 2, 2020 / 6:52 AM / 17 days ago

CORRECTED-EM ASIA FX-Most Asian units begin year on soft note amid trade doubts

 (Corrects second table to reflect 2020 year-to-date percentage
movements, not 2019 year-to-date moves.)
    * Thai c. bank says monitoring baht closely
    * China's yuan dips after RRR cut
    * Taiwan dollar strengthens  

    By Shriya Ramakrishnan
    Jan 2 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies began the
year on the backfoot on Thursday amid wider uncertainties about
U.S.-China trade progress while an earlier break of a key level
in the Thai baht kept the Southeast Asian unit under pressure.
    U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the "Phase
1" of a trade deal with China would be signed on Jan. 15.
However, no version of the text has been made public, and
Chinese officials have yet to commit to key planks.
    The South Korean won and the Philippine peso
 both edged down 0.1%.
    The Singapore dollar slipped 0.2%. The city-state's
economy expanded at its slowest pace in a decade last year due
to weakness in the manufacturing sector, though fourth quarter
readings firmed expectations for a modest recovery in 2020.

    "Signs of a turnaround are emerging, but recovery could be
weak," DBS analysts said. "While small and agile economies such
as Singapore could bounce back faster, its openness and trade
dependent nature also imply vulnerability to unexpected negative
shocks."
    Strength in global crude prices weighed on the region's net
importers, with the Indian rupee and Indonesian rupiah
 easing 0.2% and 0.1%, each. 
    The Chinese yuan dipped slightly, after Beijing
said it would cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as
reserves to spur lending and shore up the slowing
economy.
    Analysts say the central bank's move was widely expected and
aimed at addressing liquidity needs ahead of the Lunar New Year
holidays later this month, when demand for cash surges.
    "The 50 basis points cut is not exceptionally large and so
it is neither likely to give the economy that much of a thrust
nor weigh on the yuan," Fiona Lim, senior FX strategist at
Maybank, Global Markets Singapore said. "Rather, a more benign
trade environment would be more supportive of the CNY vs the
USD."
    The Taiwan dollar was the top performer of the day,
advancing 0.3%, while the Malaysian ringgit edged up
0.1%.
    
    'MONITORING BAHT CLOSELY'
    The baht weakened 0.7% against the dollar, with
traders reporting intervention by the central bank.
    The baht surpassed the key 30 per dollar level on Monday,
with the central bank saying fluctuations were due to a rush of
year-end transactions and limited market liquidity.
    Thai financial markets were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    "Should the U.S. Dollar weaken substantially over the course
of 2020, that could bring the currency pair towards the 28.5
mark, which was a key support level in 2013," Han Tan, Market
Analyst at FXTM said. 
    "Such a path for USD/THB is likely to hasten the BoT’s
measures in reining in the Baht's strength."
    BoT on Thursday said it was closely monitoring the baht, and
that liquidity was returning to normal.
    
    
    CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR
    
 Change on the day at   0609 GMT                  
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              108.730     108.7         -0.03
 Sing dlr               1.347       1.3445        -0.16
 Taiwan dlr             30.027      30.106        +0.26
 Korean won             1157.000    1156.4        -0.05
 Baht                   30.100      29.9          -0.66
 Peso                   50.700      50.65         -0.10
 Rupiah                 13900.000   13880         -0.14
 Rupee                  71.333      71.22         -0.15
 Ringgit                4.085       4.089         +0.10
 Yuan                   6.964       6.9632        -0.02
                                                  
 Change so far in 2020                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2019      Pct Move
 Japan yen              108.730     108.61        -0.11
 Sing dlr               1.347       1.3444        -0.19
 Taiwan dlr             30.027      30.106        +0.26
 Korean won             1157.000    1156.40       -0.05
 Baht                   30.100      29.91         -0.64
 Peso                   50.700      50.65         -0.10
 Rupiah                 13900.000   13880         -0.14
 Rupee                  71.333      71.38         +0.07
 Ringgit                4.085       4.0890        +0.10
 Yuan                   6.964       6.9632        -0.01
 
 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam
Holmes)
  
 
 
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