Trade war fears dent Asia currencies, China's yuan stumbles

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(June 26): Many emerging market currencies in Asia weakened on Tuesday, weighed down by heightened investor anxiety as the United States refused to budge from its hard line trade stance againts major economies.

China's yuan was the biggest loser, touching its weakest against the dollar since end-2017 during the session, with traders betting on more downside for the local currency as Beijing and Washington kept up the combative trade rhetoric. 

"The weakness of the Chinese yuan is due to escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China. If you look at the latest numbers, the export and also the manufacturing data have been holding well," said Irene Cheung, a senior strategist for Asia for ANZ.

"We have not seen the weakness in some of the numbers to justify this pressure on the Chinese yuan."

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) on Tuesday lowered its official yuan midpoint for the fifth straight trading day to 6.5180 per dollar, amid sharp losses in the local currency a day earlier. 

On Sunday, the PBOC said it would cut the level of cash reserves that some banks must hold to release US$108 billion in liquidity, as policy makers moved quickly to temper any potential economic drag from the trade dispute with the United States.

There was some confusion overnight on proposed U.S. trade actions against its main trading partners.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that coming investment restrictions from the department will not be specific to China, but would apply "to all countries that are trying to steal our technology." However, that statement was contradicted by White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro.

Indonesia's rupiah fell 0.18% against the dollar, a day after data showed higher oil prices sharply lifted the value of imports in May, resulting in a worse than expected trade deficit. 

The Indian rupee weakened 0.09% against the dollar and the Thai baht was almost flat.

Moving in the other direction, South Korea's won gained 0.16% to partially make up ground lost on Monday. 

Singapore's dollar firmed 0.12% with data showing industrial production in May rose 11.1% from a year earlier, helped by an acceleration in pharmaceutical and electronics output.

The region's worst performer this year, the Philippine peso, slightly trimmed year to date losses with a 0.1% rise.

The country has seen large capital outflows in the past few weeks.

"I think it's too early to say that the depreciation of the peso is over...if other Asian currencies also weaken and other EM currencies will weaken, it's going to be a challenging investment environment for the Philippines," said ANZ's Cheung.
The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0511 GMT.

 Currencies VS U.S. Dollar

Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move
Japan yen 109.530 109.76 +0.21
Sing dlr 1.360 1.3619 +0.12
Taiwan dlr 30.415 30.403 -0.04
Korean won 1115.400 1117.2 +0.16
Baht 32.980 32.97 -0.03
Peso 53.419 53.475 +0.10
Rupiah 14175.000 14150 -0.18
Rupee 68.180 68.12 -0.09
Ringgit 4.021 4.016 -0.11
Yuan 6.557 6.5389 -0.27

 Change so far in 2018

Currency Latest bid End 2017 Pct Move
Japan yen 109.530 112.67 +2.87
Sing dlr 1.360 1.3373 -1.69
Taiwan dlr 30.415 29.848 -1.86
Korean won 1115.400 1070.50 -4.03
Baht 32.980 32.58 -1.21
Peso 53.419 49.977 -6.44
Rupiah 14175.000 13565 -4.30
Rupee 68.180 63.87 -6.32
Ringgit 4.021 4.0440 +0.58
Yuan 6.557 6.5069 -0.76