February 8, 2018 / 6:20 AM / 5 months ago

EM ASIA FX-Most Asian currencies weaken, along with risk appetites

    * Philippine peso weakens ahead of rate decision
    * Thai baht falls sharply as speculators curb bullish bets
    * China's yuan drops after January imports jump

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Aaron Saldanha
    Feb 8 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies weakened against the
U.S. dollar on Thursday as market participants adjusted
positions as persistent volatility in regional equities lowered
risk appetites.
    Chang Wei Liang, an FX strategist with Mizuho Bank, said the
broader picture "is that of risk reduction".
    "I think a lot of people who were previously long risk, and
that usually involves being long Asian currencies... might be
reassessing their positions," he said. 
    Against a basket of six major currencies, the dollar was
steady at 90.242, just shy of a two-week high of 90.40
touched on Wednesday.
    The Thai baht was one of the region's biggest
losers, weakening about 0.7 percent.  
    "There was a speculative short dollar-baht positioning for
the most of January, showing that people were expecting baht
appreciation against the dollar," Chang said. "But now this
environment is very different from what we have seen, given the
equity market volatility."
    South Korea's won was 0.2 percent weaker against
the dollar, while the Taiwan dollar fell 0.3 percent
after January export growth failed to match expectations.
    The Malaysian ringgit shed 0.4 percent. The country's
exports rose at a much slower annual pace for a second straight
month in December, data showed on Wednesday, hurt by lower
commodity prices and shipment volumes.
    The Singapore dollar slipped 0.1 percent.
    India's rupee was the only gainer in the region,
firming less than 0.1 percent.
     MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
 was little changed, staying near its six-week
low touched on Tuesday.

    The Philippine peso weakened 0.5 percent while
the Philippine Stock Exchange's equity index lost as much
as 0.8 percent.
    The Philippine central bank is edging closer to its first
interest rate hike in over three years, but is unlikely to pull
the trigger on Thursday despite a sharp pick-up in inflation, a
Reuters poll showed.
    Monetary tightening "could provide a boost of confidence for
PHP (peso) assets while also dampening longer-term inflation
worries," said DBS Group in a note.

    China's yuan weakened as much as 1 percent
against the dollar, its worst intra-day drop since August 2015.
    Data showed a 36.9 percent jump in the China's dollar
denominated imports for January, which led to a narrower trade
surplus than expected. 
    The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against
the dollar at 0518 GMT.
  Change on the day at 0518 GMT                             
  Currency                       Latest bid  Previous    Pct
                                                  day   Move
  Japan yen                      109.620       109.31  -0.28
  Sing dlr                       1.327         1.3251  -0.14
  Taiwan dlr                     29.362        29.270  -0.31
  Korean won                     1088.400      1086.6  -0.17
  Baht                           31.760         31.53  -0.72
  Peso                           51.400         51.12  -0.54
  Rupiah                         13610.000      13552  -0.43
  Rupee                          64.230         64.28  +0.07
  Ringgit                        3.921          3.907  -0.36
  Yuan                           6.329         6.2830  -0.73
  Change so far                                             
  Currency                       Latest bid  End 2017    Pct
  Japan yen                      109.620       112.67  +2.78
  Sing dlr                       1.327         1.3373  +0.78
  Taiwan dlr                     29.362        29.848  +1.66
  Korean won                     1088.400     1070.50  -1.64
  Baht                           31.760         32.58  +2.58
  Peso                           51.400         49.93  -2.86
  Rupiah                         13610.000      13565  -0.33
  Rupee                          64.230         63.87  -0.56
  Ringgit                        3.921         4.0440  +3.14
  Yuan                           6.329         6.5069  +2.81
 (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard
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