March 14, 2019 / 6:16 AM / 3 months ago

EM ASIA FX-Asian currencies soften after China data, baht leads losses

    * China's Jan-Feb industrial output falls to 17-yr low 
    * Thai baht leads losses in emerging Asia
    * Peso slips following cut in Philippine 2019 GDP 

    By Shriya Ramakrishnan
    March 14 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies weakened against
the dollar on Thursday, as investors grappled with a slew of
economic data from the region's largest trading partner, China,
while uncertainty over a U.S.-Sino trade deal continued to weigh
on risk appetite. 
    China's industrial output fell to a 17-year low in the first
two months of the year, data showed on Thursday, while
investment picked up speed as the government fast-tracked more
road and rail projects as they work to avert a sharper slowdown.

    Earlier this month, China announced stimulus measures to
shore up its slowing economy through billions of dollars in
planned tax cuts and infrastructure spending amid softer
domestic demand and a trade war with the United States. 
    Adding to fears was U.S. President Donald Trump's comment
that he was in no rush to complete a trade pact with China.
Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had been expected
to hold a summit later this month, but no date has been set for
a meeting.
    "The rally in Asian currencies has paused as a U.S.-China
trade deal doesn't look like a slam dunk, despite markets mostly
pricing in a deal by now," Mizuho Bank said in a note.
    Among the regional players, currencies that are more
sensitive to trade tensions such as the Singapore dollar
weakened 0.2 percent, while the South Korean won
edged lower.
    The Philippine peso slid 0.3 percent to 52.76 against
the dollar.
    The Philippines, one of the fastest emerging economies in
Asia, trimmed its 2019 GDP growth target to 6-7 percent, from
7-8 percent citing a delay in final legislative approval of the
budget, while the economic planning chief said growth might fall
to below 5 percent.
    The government's economic team kept its forecast unchanged
for the peso exchange rate of 52-55 against the dollar from now
through 2022. 
    Currencies of major oil importers such as the Indonesian
rupiah and Indian rupee weakened as Brent
crude oil prices hit their highest so far this year amid ongoing
supply cuts led by producer cartel OPEC and by U.S. sanctions
against Venezuela and Iran.
    The Thai baht led declines among emerging Asia's
currencies, shedding 0.3 percent against the greenback to 31.61.
    "The Thai market underperformed the region in Q1, as growth
and political headwinds intensified," DBS Bank said in a note. 
    The baht is so far the best performer in emerging Asia this
year after it also took the top spot in 2018. Earlier this year,
the finance minister raised concerns that strength in the baht
was hurting exports, and a central bank official warned that
exports in Southeast Asia's second-largest economy was likely to
contract in the first quarter.
    Foreign investors have so far sold $315 million worth of
Thai equities this month, according to exchange data.
    Thailand goes to the polls on March 24 in the first
elections since a military coup. 
The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the
dollar at 0538 GMT.

 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              111.550     111.15        -0.36
 Sing dlr               1.354       1.3521        -0.17
 Taiwan dlr             30.902      30.910        +0.03
 Korean won             1134.100    1132.6        -0.13
 Baht                   31.710      31.61         -0.32
 Peso                   52.760      52.63         -0.25
 Rupiah                 14270.000   14260         -0.07
 Rupee                  69.580      69.54         -0.06
 Ringgit                4.088       4.0865        -0.04
 Yuan                   6.712       6.7070        -0.07
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2018      Pct Move
 Japan yen              111.550     109.56        -1.78
 Sing dlr               1.354       1.3627        +0.61
 Taiwan dlr             30.902      30.733        -0.55
 Korean won             1134.100    1115.70       -1.62
 Baht                   31.710      32.55         +2.65
 Peso                   52.760      52.47         -0.55
 Rupiah                 14270.000   14375         +0.74
 Rupee                  69.580      69.77         +0.27
 Ringgit                4.088       4.1300        +1.03
 Yuan                   6.712       6.8730        +2.41

 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru, Additional
reporting by Gaurav Dogra
Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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