May 16, 2019 / 5:49 AM / 2 months ago

EM ASIA FX-Most Asian currencies steady, ringgit gains on Q1 growth pace

    * Bank Indonesia likely to keep key rate at 6%
    * Indian rupee firms despite widening trade deficit
    * Malaysia Q1 growth 4.5% y/y vs 4.3% forecast

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Niyati Shetty
    May 16 (Reuters) - The Malaysian ringgit strengthened
significantly on Thursday,  helped by data that showed
first-quarter economic growth was faster than expected. 
    Emerging Asian currencies were mixed on the day as United
States and China aim to salvage trade talks that could end their
protracted trade dispute.
    In addition to the ringgit, another gainer on Thursday was
the Indonesian rupiah, which firmed slightly ahead of a
central bank rate decision. It advanced 0.1% to 14,445.0 per
     The ringgit strengthened 0.4% - its biggest intraday
gain in 3-1/2-month - to 4.155 ringgit to the dollar  after
Malaysia's central bank said the economy expanded 4.5% in the
first quarter.
    That pace was higher than the 4.3% forecast in a Reuters
poll. Growth was supported by private sector consumption and a
recovery in palm oil production.
    Government data also showed Malaysia's current account
surplus widened to 16.4 billion ringgit ($3.95 billion) in the
first quarter from 10.8 billion ringgit in the previous three
    In Jakarta, Bank Indonesia (BI) is likely to keep its main
interest rate unchanged at 6% for a sixth straight policy
meeting due to renewed pressure on the rupiah, according to a
Reuters poll.    
    "The recent round of tariff slinging between the U.S. and
China has sparked emerging forex weakness again, which should
keep BI on hold for now," ING said in a note.  
    Adding to the unlikelihood of monetary easing at this
juncture, government data on Wednesday showed that Southeast
Asia's largest economy posted its widest trade deficit in
history in April, as exports slumped.
    The trade deficit was $2.5 billion, compared to a median
forecast of a $500 million gap in a Reuters poll.
    The Thai baht gained 0.1%, while the Singapore
dollar and the Chinese yuan were largely flat.
    The yuan was largely steady. Traders said the
news that the U.S. has hit telecoms giant Huawei with severe
sanctions did not move the currency.
    The Indian rupee added 0.2% even as the country's
trade deficit widened in April from a year earlier, data
released late on Wednesday showed.
   The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against
the dollar at 0442 GMT.
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.500     109.58        +0.07
 Sing dlr               1.368       1.3681        -0.01
 Taiwan dlr             31.125      31.110        -0.05
 Korean won             1189.300    1188.6        -0.06
 Baht                   31.565      31.6          +0.11
 Peso                   52.325      52.266        -0.11
 Rupiah                 14445.000   14455         +0.07
 Rupee                  70.225      70.34         +0.16
 Ringgit                4.155       4.173         +0.43
 Yuan                   6.879       6.8768        -0.02
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2018      Pct Move
 Japan yen              109.500     109.56        +0.05
 Sing dlr               1.368       1.3627        -0.41
 Taiwan dlr             31.125      30.733        -1.26
 Korean won             1189.300    1115.70       -6.19
 Baht                   31.565      32.55         +3.12
 Peso                   52.325      52.47         +0.28
 Rupiah                 14445.000   14375         -0.48
 Rupee                  70.225      69.77         -0.65
 Ringgit                4.155       4.1300        -0.60
 Yuan                   6.879       6.8730        -0.08
($1 = 4.1570 ringgit)

 (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard
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