(Jan 30): Most Southeast Asian currencies steadied on Tuesday as investors held tight ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision later this week, although the South Korean won and Thai baht rose to a two-week high in the thin trading environment.
The won advanced as much as 0.5%, although it is on track to log its worst month since August. The baht followed suit, rising as much as 0.4% by 0618 GMT.
The baht had recently been squeezed by fiscal uncertainty after the Bank of Thailand faced repeated requests from the government to cut rates amid concerns of a weakening economy.
The Taiwanese dollar rose as much as 0.4% to mark a more than two-week high.
With the beginning of the Fed’s meeting on Tuesday, the focus shifted to chair Jerome Powell’s press conference on Wednesday for cues on whether the central bank fans or dials back market expectations around an imminent interest rate cut.
The dollar index was largely flat, last up 0.1%.
In Asia, stocks came under pressure after a Hong Kong court ordered the liquidation of debt-laden property developer China Evergrande.
Shares in Shanghai dipped as much as 1%, marking its biggest intraday percentage drop in a week.
The MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) Index, which captures large- and mid-cap representation across 24 EM countries, traded down as much as 0.6% to mark its biggest intraday percentage drop in over a week.
Shares in India, Thailand and South Korea were largely flat. Malaysian stocks are on track to log their best month in five, adding more than 4% in value so far this week.
Equities in Indonesia and the Philippines inched up more than 0.3%, although Indonesian shares were on track to end January weaker, snapping two straight months of gains.
“Asia equities, especially A50 and Hang Seng, have plenty of room for further inflows, which should keep the KRW, the TWD, and even the THB supported onshore,” analysts at Citi said in a note.
The regional calendar for the week includes fourth-quarter growth figures from Taiwan and Hong Kong, with inflation figures from Indonesia and South Korea taking centre stage.
Elsewhere, the Indonesian rupiah regained some lost ground to edge slightly higher by 0.2% after Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati assured that the exchange rate for the currency will remain stable with an upside bias given the pressure from a strong dollar has begun to ease.
In the Philippines, the peso was flat. The country revised its third-quarter gross domestic product growth to 6.0% from 5.9% on Tuesday.