Asian currencies strengthened, led by India’s rupee and Malaysia’s ringgit, as retail sales data from the U.S. that beat economists’ estimates supported demand for riskier assets.
Advanced retail sales in the world’s largest economy rose 1.1 percent last month, compared with the 0.8 percent increase forecast in a Bloomberg survey, a report showed yesterday. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (MXAP) of shares gained the most in more than two weeks ahead of a two-day European Union summit to tackle the region’s debt crisis starting Oct. 18. Chinese exports increased by the most in three months in September, data showed Oct. 13.
“With positive U.S retail sales, hopes for a rebound in China and the EU news on Thursday, the market has been going long on Asian currencies,” Nizam Idris, head of Asian fixed income and foreign-exchange at Macquarie Bank Ltd. in Singapore, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “Equities have rallied and Asian currencies have benefited from the underlying positive tone in trading bias.”
The rupee appreciated 0.4 percent to 52.8225 per dollar as of 1:22 p.m. in Mumbai, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg. The ringgit advanced 0.4 percent to 3.0495, while South Korea’s won and the Philippine peso strengthened 0.3 percent to 1,107.19 and 41.335, respectively.
The Bloomberg-JP Morgan Asia Dollar Index, which tracks the region’s 10 most-active currencies outside Japan, rose 0.1 percent and touched the highest level since March.
The won reached the strongest level against the dollar in almost a year as the yen fell for a fourth day and the Kospi index rose by the most in a month.
“The U.S. data was positive and with the dollar-yen exchange rate rising, demand for safer assets has weakened,” said Han Sung Min, a Seoul-based currency trader at Busan Bank. “I expect the won’s appreciation trend to continue.”
Taiwan dollar one-month forwards touched a five-month high as the U.S. data brightened the island’s export outlook. Orders for overseas sales rose 1.9 percent in September from a year earlier, after dropping 1.5 percent the previous month, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey before data due Oct. 19.
The Taiwan dollar closed 0.2 percent stronger at NT$29.289 against its U.S. counterpart after being up as much as 0.6 percent earlier. The central bank has intervened to stem gains in the currency in late trading on most days in the past five months, according to traders who asked not to be identified.
The ringgit advanced after Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz said in an Oct. 14 interview in Tokyo that gross domestic product will see “good growth” in the third and fourth quarters, with full-year expansion at about 5 percent. GDP increased 5.1 percent in 2011, official data show.
The yuan rose 0.09 percent to 6.2649 per dollar as the People’s Bank of China set the daily fixing at the strongest level since June 21. The currency has rallied 1.6 percent since the end of July. Asia’s largest economy expanded 7.4 percent in the third quarter, the least since 2009, according to a Bloomberg survey before data due Oct. 18.
“Some investors could be taking profits from the recent rapid gains in the yuan as they are cautious on the economy,” said Patrick Cheng, a currency analyst at Haitong International Securities Co. in Hong Kong.
Elsewhere in Asia, Thailand’s baht and Vietnam’s dong were steady at 30.67 and 20,850, respectively. Indonesia’s rupiah weakened 0.2 percent to 9.610.
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