Asian Currencies Strengthen After Fed Monetary-Policy Comments

Asian currencies rose for a second day after a Federal Reserve survey showed the U.S. economy is improving and the central bank signaled its loose monetary policy would probably continue.

The Philippine peso and Malaysia’s ringgit climbed after official reports showed the nations’ exports surged in February. Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen endorsed the central bank’s “highly accommodative” policy, which supports inflows into higher-yielding emerging-market assets. Indonesia’s rupiah rebounded from a three-week low reached after an earthquake yesterday.

“The Fed might keep an easing bias longer than expected,” said Radhika Rao, an economist at Forecast Pte in Singapore. “That’s why Asian currencies are higher. The scale of the rebound in exports also caught the market by surprise.”

The ringgit advanced 0.3 percent to 3.0688 per dollar as of 4:20 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Thailand’s baht strengthened 0.2 percent to 30.81 and the rupiah gained 0.3 percent to 9,180 while the peso rose 0.1 percent to 42.715.

The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index climbed for a second day, while its 60-day historical volatility was little changed at 3.27 percent. Philippine exports rose 14.6 percent in February versus a 3.1 percent gain in January, the government said today. Malaysia’s overseas sales advanced 14.5 percent, compared with 0.4 percent in January, official data showed on April 10.

Aceh Quake

The U.S. economy grew in all 12 of its regions as manufacturing, hiring and retail sales showed signs of strength, the Fed said in its Beige Book business survey yesterday. Still, further policy easing “could be warranted” if the recovery falters, Yellen said in a speech in New York.

The rupiah rebounded on speculation the central bank intervened after an 8.6-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia’s Aceh province yesterday. There have been no reports of fatalities directly from the quake, although several buildings were damaged, the Indonesian Red Cross said in a text-message today.

“Bank Indonesia is guiding the rupiah,” said Taufan Tito, a Jakarta-based foreign-exchange dealer at PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia.

The central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 5.75 percent today, after cutting it by 25 basis points in February. The decision was predicted by all 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

China Growth Slows

The baht reached its strongest level since April 2 on speculation exporters are converting income before local holidays that start tomorrow. Currency and bond markets will be shut through April 16 to ring in the Thai New Year, known as Songkran. European Central Bank executive board member Benoit Coeure said yesterday policy makers could revive bond purchases to lower Spain’s borrowing costs.

“There may be some exporter demand before the Songkran holiday, but trade may become more quiet today,” said Kozo Hasegawa, a Bangkok-based trader at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. “Risk sentiment is improving amid speculation about support for Spain, and that helps to boost regional currencies.”

China’s yuan was little changed at 6.3073 per dollar in Shanghai. The central bank raised the currency’s reference rate by 0.05 percent to 6.2984, the strongest level since March 30. The Chinese economy probably grew 8.4 percent last quarter, following an 8.9 percent expansion in the final three months of 2011, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey before a government report tomorrow.

The People’s Bank of China may cut interest rates in the “immediate future” as inflation isn’t too high, Michael Kurtz, chief Asian equity strategist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Tokyo, wrote in a report dated yesterday.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s dollar climbed 0.04 percent to NT$29.55 against its U.S. counterpart. South Korea’s won was little changed at 1,140.45 versus 1,139.70 on April 10. Vietnam’s dong gained 0.1 percent to 20,825.

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