April 29, 2019 / 5:24 AM / 20 days ago

EM ASIA FX-S.Korean, Thai currencies firmer as U.S. GDP boosts sentiment

    * Won snaps seven-day weakening run
    * Baht hits strongest level in 1 week
    * Most other units appreciate marginally

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Aby Jose Koilparambil
    April 29 (Reuters) - The South Korean won and Thai baht
strengthened on Monday as firmer-than-expected U.S. economic
growth figures supported risk sentiment, though market holidays
and the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting this week are keeping
investors cautious.
    Data on Friday showed U.S. economic growth accelerated in
the first quarter, but the burst in growth was driven by a
smaller trade deficit and the largest accumulation of unsold
merchandise since 2015.
    "The strong U.S. GDP data failed to push the dollar higher
but that is real positive news for riskier assets generally and
for equities. The Asian markets are in a holding pattern,
awaiting key data," said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at
    Goh also added that the start of long break in Japanese
markets along with a shortened week of trading for all major
regional markets has also contributed to subdued markets.
    The South Korean won snapped seven straight
sessions of declines and firmed as much as 0.3 percent to 1,157
per dollar.
    The won had weakened after data last week showed the economy
contracted at a pace last seen during the global financial
crisis, as companies slashed investments and exports slumped in
response to Sino-U.S. trade tensions and cooling Chinese demand.
    ANZ's Goh said the South Korean currency was giving back
some of the weakness it saw last week.
    This week, investors await key Chinese manufacturing surveys
for April, which will be released on Tuesday with market
participants waiting to see if the world's second largest
economy sustained momentum after a surprise expansion in March.
    According to a Reuters poll, China's factory activity likely
expanded at a steady but modest clip in April, which would be
the second straight month of improved business conditions, as
government growth-boosting measures buoy the vast manufacturing
    Asian markets would likely rally on any signs of growth in
the China's manufacturing sector, given the economy's importance
as a source of regional export demand.
    Thailand, a largely export-driven economy, releases its
March manufacturing data on Tuesday, while Asia's fourth largest
economy South Korea publishes March industrial production and
April preliminary trade numbers during the week.
    The global focus, however, will be on the Fed meeting, held
Tuesday and Wednesday. Although no changes to policy settings
are expected, investors will be watching for signs of dovish
policy inclinations, given the upside surprise in first quarter
U.S. economic growth.
    Another major gainer on the day was Thai baht,
which strengthened 0.2 percent to 31.90 against the dollar, its
strongest level in a week.
    The Malaysian ringgit, the Taiwan dollar
and the Philippine peso appreciated slightly while the
Chinese yuan was little changed.
    The Indonesian rupiah, however, traded marginally
    Indian financial markets were closed on the day for a
    The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against
the dollar at 0437 GMT.
 Japan yen              111.590     111.58    -0.01
 Sing dlr               1.361       1.3617    +0.08
 Taiwan dlr             30.894      30.907    +0.04
 Korean won             1157.500    1161      +0.30
 Baht                   31.890      31.97     +0.25
 Peso                   52.050      52.06     +0.02
 Rupiah                 14190.000   14180     -0.07
 Ringgit                4.130       4.131     +0.02
 Yuan                   6.730       6.7300    +0.00
 Change so far in 2019                        
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2018  Pct Move
 Japan yen              111.590     109.56    -1.82
 Sing dlr               1.361       1.3627    +0.15
 Taiwan dlr             30.894      30.733    -0.52
 Korean won             1157.500    1115.70   -3.61
 Baht                   31.890      32.55     +2.07
 Peso                   52.050      52.47     +0.81
 Rupiah                 14190.000   14375     +1.30
 Ringgit                4.130       4.1300    +0.00
 Yuan                   6.730       6.8730    +2.13
 (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by
Sam Holmes)
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