Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s won and Indonesia’s rupiah led declines in Asian currencies as data this week showed economic growth is slowing in most of the region’s economies.
Korean exports dropped for the first time in two years, Thai overseas sales fell in December and Taiwan’s economy expanded at the slowest pace since 2009 last quarter. A Chinese purchasing managers’ index released today unexpectedly rose in January. Thailand and Indonesia cut borrowing costs last quarter, while India reduced bank’s reserve requirements last week.
“Growth is slowing down at different degrees” in Asia except China, said Chia Woon Khien, the Singapore-based head of currency and rates strategy for Asia excluding Japan at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. In “countries like India and Indonesia, monetary policy has started to ease and more easing will come and that over time will undermine their currencies,” she said.
The rupiah weakened 0.4 percent to 9,035 per dollar as of 3:38 p.m. in Jakarta, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. The won declined 0.3 percent to 1,126.35 and Thailand’s baht fell 0.4 percent to 31.05.
A government report today showed Indonesian exports rose 2.2 percent in December, compared with the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey for a 3.5 percent increase and a revised 10.2 percent gain the previous month. It was the smallest advance since September 2009.
Korean Inflation Cools
The export data “is a reminder that Indonesia isn’t isolated from what’s going on in the world,” said Gundy Cahyadi, a Singapore-based economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. “The European crisis is putting pressure on the currencies.”
The won declined to a one-week low as data showed inflation cooled, damping speculation policy makers will allow appreciation to curb price gains. Consumer prices rose 3.4 percent in January from a year earlier, compared with 4.2 percent the month before. Exports shrank 6.6 percent, the first decline since October 2009.
“Some investors have been betting the government will allow currency gains to stem inflation, but today’s figures may make them reconsider,” said Kim Doo Hyun, a Seoul-based senior currency trader at Korea Exchange Bank.
The baht dropped the most in almost four weeks after overseas sales fell 2.1 percent from a year earlier following a 13.1 percent decline in November, central bank data show. The currency retreated from a seven-week high as a report today showed inflation slowed to 3.4 percent in January, the least since March 2011.
“The Thai economic picture isn’t that good at this moment,” said Disawat Tiaowvanich, a foreign-exchange trader at Bangkok Bank Pcl. “We may see fewer exporters willing to sell the dollar, while importers may rush to buy the dollar.”
China’s yuan was little changed at 6.3067 per dollar after a report showed the nation’s manufacturing expanded last month on increased new orders. The purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.5 from 50.3 in December, more than the median estimate of 49.6 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Fifty is the dividing line between contraction and expansion.
“Investor confidence got a boost by better-than-expected PMI,” said Edmond Law, deputy head of foreign currency at BWC Capital Markets in Hong Kong. “It implies China’s economic slowdown isn’t as bad as what people expected.”
Elsewhere, Taiwan’s dollar declined 0.3 percent to NT$29.695 against the greenback and the Philippine peso slipped 0.2 percent to 42.945. India’s rupee was little changed at 49.4450. Financial markets in Malaysia were closed today for a public holiday.
--With assistance from David Yong and Khalid Qayum in Singapore and Jiyeun Lee in Seoul. Editors: Andrew Janes, Simon Harvey
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