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Asia FX weakens as Fed minutes brew rate fears, boost dollar

Published 23/05/2024, 02:20 pm
© Reuters.
- Most Asian currencies kept to a tight range on Thursday and were nursing overnight losses as the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s recent meeting boosted the dollar amid growing concerns over higher-for-longer interest rates. 

Sentiment towards most Asian markets was also battered by the prospect of a renewed U.S.-China trade war, after China retaliated over the imposition of steeper U.S. tariffs on key business sectors. Chinese military drills near Taiwan also spooked traders. 

Dollar strong after Fed minutes ramp up rate fears 

The dollar index and dollar index futures both steadied in Asian trade after strong overnight gains.

The minutes of the Fed’s late-April meeting showed policymakers were growing increasingly concerned over sticky inflation, and that some Fed officials were also ready to raise rates further to bring down inflation.

The minutes were preceded by a string of separate addresses from Fed officials that sticky inflation was likely to delay any potential rate cuts. 

While the Fed is still seen unlikely to raise interest rates further, markets were now pricing in a greater chance the central bank will keep rates high for longer- a scenario that bodes poorly for risk-driven Asian markets. 

The dollar rose on this prospect and was trading at a one-week high. 

Most Asian currencies logged sharp overnight declines against the greenback, and somewhat steadied on Thursday. The Australian dollar’s AUDUSD pair rose 0.2% after falling 0.7% on Wednesday. Purchasing managers index data showed some cooling in Australian services activity.

The Japanese yen’s USDJPY pair moved little on Thursday after surging close to 157 yen in overnight trade. PMI data for Japan showed manufacturing activity expanded for the first time in 11 months. 

The South Korean won’s USDKRW pair fell 0.1% after the Bank of Korea kept rates steady as expected, but also slightly hiked its economic growth forecast for the year. 

The Singapore dollar’s USDSGD pair fell 0.1% as data reaffirmed the Singapore economy grew at a slightly slower-than-expected pace in the first quarter. 

Chinese yuan weak, USDCNY moves back towards 6-mth high

The Chinese yuan’s USDCNY pair rose slightly on Thursday and was trading just below a six-month high.

Beijing was seen banning certain U.S. firms from participating in trade activity relating to China, while also banning some arms shipments to Taiwan. The move was seen as retaliation for steeper U.S. tariffs on key Chinese industries, which will go live from August 1.

China also carried out military drills near Taiwanese territory, ramping up concerns over heightened tensions in the area.

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