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Barring yuan, sentiment improves for Asia FX waiting for gradual Fed tightening: Poll

In contrast, short positions in other emerging Asian currencies were reduced as Fed policymakers indicated the US central bank may increase interest rates.

Jongwoo Cheon | November 26, 2015 | Updated 17:28 IST
Barring yuan, sentiment improves for Asia FX waiting for gradual Fed tightening: Poll
China's yuan was an exception with its bearish bets at a three-month high, according to the survey of 19 fund managers, currency traders and analysts. Photo: Reuters

Sentiment towards most emerging Asian currencies improved as the US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates only gradually in 2016 after a hike next month, a Reuters poll showed.

China's yuan was an exception with its bearish bets at a three-month high, according to the survey of 19 fund managers, currency traders and analysts conducted from Tuesday through Thursday.

That came as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is almost certain to add the renminbi to the Special Drawing Rights basket later this month.

The yuan may enter the IMF's benchmark currency basket with a lower weighting than earlier expected as the Fund is considering rejigging the basket to better reflect financial flows, people briefed on the Fund's discussions told Reuters.

Some analysts expected China to allow the yuan to depreciate once the currency is formally included. On Monday, the Chinese unit hit a near three-month low after the central bank set its daily guidance rate weaker.

In contrast, short positions in other emerging Asian currencies were reduced as Fed policymakers indicated the US central bank may increase interest rates only slowly once it embarks on is first tightening cycle in around a decade.

The Fed is widely expected to hike interest rates at its next meeting in December, but the prospects have been already priced in to some degree, traders and analysts said. The previous poll, on Nov. 12, showed sentiment toward emerging Asian currencies had deteriorated.

This latest survey estimated pessimistic bets on the Malaysian ringgit had fallen to the lowest since mid-May as rebounds in crude prices eased concerns over the country's falling oil and gas revenues.

The ringgit also drew support from debt-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd's (1MDB) agreement to sell its energy business in a $2.3 billion cash deal to China General Nuclear Power Corporation.

Separately, China will buy more Malaysian government bonds to help stabilise its financial markets, Premier Li Keqiang announced, according to state news agency Xinhua on Monday.

Ebbing confidence in Malaysia, due to weak global oil prices and a corruption scandal linked to 1MDB, had pushed the ringgit 17 per cent down againt the dollar this year, making it the region's worst-performer.

The Indonesian rupiah's short positions slid to the smallest since mid-October amid doubts over the central bank's ability to cut its policy interest rates on fears of capital outflows.

Last week, Bank Indonesia cut a reserve requirement, while leaving its benchmark interest rate unchanged. The central bank said it sees some room to ease monetary policy further.

Pessimism toward the South Korean won eased as offshore funds dumped the dollar to stop losses as the greenback weakened all round. Exporters chased the won for month-end settlements.

Short positions on the Singapore dollar slid as the currency hit a near three-week high on data showing the economy grew much faster than initially estimated. The central bank also said the monetary policy remains appropriate.

The poll is focused on what analysts and fund managers believe are the current market positions in nine Asian emerging market currencies: the Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Singapore dollar, Indonesian rupiah, Taiwan dollar, Indian rupee, Philippine peso, Malaysian ringgit and the Thai baht.

The poll uses estimates of net long or short positions on a scale of minus 3 to plus 3. A score of plus 3 indicates the market is significantly long US dollars.

The figures include positions held through non-deliverable forwards (NDFs).

(Reuters)

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