November 27, 2017 / 6:08 AM / in 21 days

Most Asian currencies adrift ahead of Powell Senate hearing

(Reuters) - Most Asian currencies drifted on Monday and the dollar was flat before Jerome Powell, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, appears at a Senate confirmation hearing Senate on Tuesday where his policy views will be put under a microscope.

FILE PHOTO: Japan Yen and U.S. Dollar notes are seen in this June 22, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was flat at 0523 GMT, while U.S. bond yields were unmoved from Friday’s levels.

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on Tuesday to confirm Powell to succeed Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve.

“Apart from continuity in the Fed’s stance to gradually hike rates, Powell is on board with the unwinding of the Fed’s balance sheet to $2.5-3 trillion from $4.5 trillion,” DBS Group’s FX Strategist Philip Wee said in a note.

“What separates Powell from (incumbent Chair Janet) Yellen is his willingness to roll back some of the banking regulations enacted during the financial crisis.”

Investors will be watching for Trump’s tax reform plan as well as Powell’s Congressional appearance.

Asian currencies were mixed with the South Korean won declining the most against the dollar, weakening by 0.2 percent, as investors took profits after the currency firmed for two straight weeks.

The won strengthened more than 1 percent last week ahead of Bank of Korea’s policy meeting on Thursday, at which the central bank is expected to raise rates by 25 basis points.

“There was quite a bit of long positioning last week in anticipation of BOK moving on interest rates,” said Wei Liang Chang, FX strategist at Mizuho Bank.

“Perhaps there are some doubts seeping in whether the BOK will be willing to move at this juncture, given the extent of won appreciation we have seen is something that’s undesirable from their point of few.”

The Taiwanese dollar, baht and ringgit strengthened marginally against the dollar.

PHILIPPINE PESO

The peso firmed on Monday after two sessions of declines against the dollar, rising 0.2 percent.

Wei Liang Chang said he was still cautious on the peso “even though it has shown it can move quite a fair bit in terms of trading binges”.

“We are a bit more careful because of the fact that real rates for the Philippines is one of the lowest in the region, and there are unquelled concerns that the Philippines is approaching a phase of overheating.”

Philippine central bank governor Nestor Espenilla said on Friday the country’s central bank wasn’t obliged to move in line with the Fed and that the central bank’s primary focus “is on the inflation outlook relative to our target”.

The Philippine central bank will hold a policy meeting on Dec. 14.

INDIAN RUPEE

The rupee weakened slightly against the dollar after Standard & Poor’s left its “BBB-minus” sovereign rating unchanged, refusing to follow Moody’s recent decision to upgrade the India’s rating.

“The rating agency reiterated its BBB-rating on India with a stable outlook, indicating that the rating is unlikely to see a change in the near future,” Scotiabank said in a note.

Additional reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer

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