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Asia FX slides, dollar strong after Fed flags higher rates

Published 21/09/2023, 01:36 pm
Updated 21/09/2023, 01:36 pm
© Reuters. Most Asian currencies tumbled on Thursday, while the dollar rose to six-month highs after the Federal Reserve warned that U.S. interest rates will remain higher for longer. 

Markets were also largely risk-off before several more central bank rate decisions this week, most notably the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England. 

Fed offers hawkish pause, flags fewer rate cuts 

Asian currencies were nursing steep overnight losses after the Fed kept rates steady, but warned that sticky inflation could invite at least one more hike this year.

The bank also said that rates will likely stay around 5.1% in 2024, dampening hopes that the Fed will cut rates at least four times next year.

The Japanese yen steadied around 148 after tumbling to a new 10-month low on Wednesday, while the Indian rupee fell 0.1% after coming close to record lows earlier this week. The rupee was also slammed by a spike in oil prices. 

The rate-sensitive South Korean won lost 0.5%, while losses in commodity markets saw the Australian dollar shed 0.5%. The New Zealand dollar fell 0.3% even as data showed the island economy grew more than expected in the second quarter, after entering a technical recession earlier this year.

The Chinese yuan fell 0.2%, once again crossing the 7.3 level despite a series of strong daily midpoint fixes from the People’s Bank of China. The PBOC left its loan prime rates unchanged on Wednesday, as it struggles to support an economic recovery and stem further yuan weakness.

On the other hand, the dollar index and dollar index futures both rose around 0.5% in Asian trade, and were at their strongest level since early-March. 10-year Treasury yields surged to an over 15-year high. 

The Fed’s warning heralds continued pressure on Asian markets, which were battered by a narrowing gap between risky and low-risk yields over the past year. Higher U.S. rates also limit the scope for any major recovery in regional currencies, given that most Asian central banks have already paused their rate hike cycles this year. 

Bank of Japan, more rate decisions in focus 

Focus is now squarely on a Bank of Japan meeting on Friday, where the central bank is widely expected to provide more cues on when it plans to end its negative rate regime. 

But whether the yen will be supported by any hawkish signals remains to be seen, especially with the currency trading at 10-month lows on a widening gulf between local and U.S. rates.

But before the BOJ, rate decisions from the Philippines and Indonesia are due later on Thursday. The peso and the rupiah fell 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, with their respective central banks widely expected to hold interest rates.

The Bank of England is also expected to hike interest rates later on Thursday, with UK inflation running hot despite rising slightly less than expected in August.

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