Asia Currencies Drop as Europe’s Debt Crisis Deters Risk-Taking

Asian currencies fell to a four-month low as Greece’s failure to form a government deterred risk-taking, damping demand for higher-yielding assets.

South Korea’s won and Malaysia’s ringgit tumbled the most this year, India’s rupee slid to a record low and the Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index dropped for a fourth day. Post-election attempts to form a ruling coalition in Athens broke down yesterday, sending Greeks back to the polls next month with surveys giving the lead to an anti-bailout party. Official data yesterday showed foreign direct investment in China fell for a sixth month in April.

“The news that Greece will have new elections increases the risk of it exiting from the euro,” said Thomas Harr, the Singapore-based head of Asian foreign-exchange strategy at Standard Chartered Plc. “Secondly, it’s China’s slowdown. Those two things are driving markets at the moment.”

The ringgit slumped 1.1 percent to 3.1120 per dollar as of 4:27 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The won dropped 1 percent to 1,165.55, the Philippine peso weakened 0.9 percent to 43.04 and Thailand’s baht fell 0.5 percent to 31.49. India’s rupee slid 0.8 percent to 54.2425, earlier touching an all-time low of 54.4650. The Asia Dollar Index reached 115.06, the lowest level since Jan. 9.

Monitoring Markets

The won dropped to the weakest level since January as exchange data showed international investors sold $2 billion more Korean equities than they bought this month through yesterday. The Kospi Index fell for a sixth day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level in almost four months in New York.

South Korean authorities will closely monitor markets for volatility caused by political uncertainties in Europe, Finance Minister Bahk Jae Wan said at a government meeting today.

“Global stock declines are triggering risk-averse sentiment in the market,” said Jeon Seung Ji, a Seoul-based currency analyst at Samsung Futures Inc. “Still, I expect the won to trade stronger than 1,160 per dollar as the finance minister’s comments put investors on alert for possible intervention.”

Taiwan’s dollar dropped to the lowest level in more than three months, declining 0.4 percent to NT$29.635 versus the greenback, according to Taipei Forex Inc. The baht reached its weakest level since January. Global funds reduced holdings of Taiwanese, Thai and Indonesia stocks by $2.3 billion this month through yesterday, exchange data show.

“The Greek issue is making investors risk-averse, and that supports the dollar and other safer assets,” said Hideki Hayashi, a researcher at the Japan Center for Economic Research in Tokyo. “Asian currencies will likely see downward pressure for the time being.”

Elsewhere, China’s yuan weakened 0.06 percent to 6.3222 per dollar. Indonesia’s rupiah rose 0.2 percent to 9,281 and Vietnam’s dong strengthened 0.1 percent to 20,835.