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Ringgit Leads Gains in Asian Currencies on Stimulus Optimism

Malaysia’s ringgit led gains among Asian currencies after international investors boosted holdings of the region’s assets amid speculation central banks in major economies will act to spur growth.

Minutes released today from a Bank of Japan meeting last month showed policy makers weren’t ruling out any options to boost the economy, the biggest export market for the Philippines and the second-largest for Thailand. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of stocks gained after demand rose at an Italian debt auction yesterday, damping concern Europe’s debt crisis will worsen. Global funds pumped almost $6 billion into Indian, South Korean, Taiwanese and Thai stocks this month, exchange data show.

“Financial markets have been quite stable recently, making it easier for investors to take some risks,” said Tohru Nishihama, an economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. in Tokyo. “Speculation has been lingering about monetary easing by central banks in major economies, which also encouraged some fund inflows to emerging markets.”

The ringgit strengthened 0.2 percent to 3.1153 per dollar as of 4:23 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. South Korea’s won and Taiwan’s dollar added 0.1 percent to 1,129.78 and NT$29.965, respectively. The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index held steady at 115.48. It touched 115.73 on Aug. 9, the highest level since May 15.

‘Not Game-Changing’

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams said the central bank should begin a third round of bond purchases amid signs U.S. growth is slowing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Aug. 10. Germany last week backed a European Central Bank bond-buying plan that may alleviate the region’s debt problems.

Italy sold 8 billion euros ($9.9 billion) of Treasury bills at an auction yesterday, with investors bidding for 1.69 times the amount offered, compared with 1.55 times last month.

The won snapped a two-day loss as the benchmark Kospi index of stocks rose 1.3 percent.

“There are some foreign inflows into the stock market that are supporting the won,” said David Kang, a currency analyst at Woori Futures Inc. in Seoul. “There is some small positive news on Italy, but it’s not a game-changing situation.”

Taiwan’s dollar rose for the first time in three days before data that’s forecast to show U.S. retail sales increased 0.3 percent last month, the first gain since March, according to a Bloomberg survey, easing concern a recovery in the world’s largest economy is losing momentum.

‘Attractive Valuations’

“Foreign funds have been piling into Taiwanese stocks as they see attractive valuations,” said Tarsicio Tong, a foreign-exchange trader at Union Bank of Taiwan in Taipei.

India’s rupee dropped 0.5 percent to 55.6413 per dollar as Director General of Foreign Trade Anup Pujari said exports slid 14.8 percent last month from a year earlier. Imports fell 7.6 percent, resulting in a $15.5 billion trade deficit, he said at a briefing in New Delhi today. The benchmark wholesale-price index increased 6.87 percent in July, the slowest pace in 32 months, official data showed today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 7.2 percent rise.

Elsewhere, the Philippine peso was little changed at 41.917 per dollar and Indonesia’s rupiah was unchanged at 9,485. China’s yuan strengthened 0.05 percent to 6.3586 and Thailand’s baht advanced 0.1 percent from Aug. 10 to 31.44. Onshore financial markets were closed in Thailand yesterday for a public holiday.

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