Asia Currencies Drop as Slowing Europe, China Sap Export Outlook

Asian currencies weakened amid concern Europe’s debt crisis and the slowing Chinese economy are worsening the outlook for the region’s overseas sales.

Taiwan reported today export orders, an indication of shipments in the next one to three months, fell more than economists predicted in July, while Thailand cut forecasts for overseas sales and economic growth this year, citing the global slowdown. Euro-area finance ministers are expected to meet in Athens this week to discuss Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ request for a two-year extension of the country’s fiscal adjustment program.

South Korea’s won fell 0.1 percent to 1,135.55 per dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Thailand’s baht was unchanged at 31.52 after touching a two-week low of 31.62 earlier. The Bloomberg JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index declined for a second day as regional stocks dropped. Onshore financial markets in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and India are closed today for public holidays.

“Export outlooks for many Asian countries are quite dull with Europe’s crisis and China’s slowdown,” said Tohru Nishihama, an economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. in Tokyo.

Thai gross domestic product increased 4.2 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, official data showed today, more than the 3.1 percent median forecast in a Bloomberg survey. The economy will expand 5.5 percent to 6 percent in 2012, compared with a previous estimate 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, the National Economic and Social Development Board said today. It also reduced its forecast for full-year export growth to 7.3 percent from 15.1 percent.

Weaker Thai Outlook

“The data was for the second quarter and the outlook is expected to be weaker,” said Wee-Khoon Chong, a fixed-income strategist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. “Export data has already shown weakness.”

The won touched the weakest level since Aug. 3 after data this month showed Korean exports fell 8.8 percent in July from a year earlier, the biggest drop in almost three years, while the central bank kept interest rates unchanged at 3 percent.

“Investors are cautious and waiting to see if the politicians in Europe will be able to do something to turn things around,” said Frances Cheung, a strategist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong. “Although the central bank didn’t cut rates this month, we’re still expecting one reduction this year.”

Yuan Steady

China’s yuan was little changed at 6.3594 per dollar in Shanghai. The central bank weakened the currency’s daily fixing by 0.05 percent to 6.3478 after a commentary in the Financial News, controlled by the monetary authority, on Aug. 18 suggested the PBOC has no intention of cutting lenders’ reserves requirements in the short term to support the economy.

“Investors aren’t so active as they are waiting for more clarity on Chinese government policy,” said Banny Lam, chief economist at CCB International Securities in Hong Kong. “The yuan is likely to stay steady on thin trading.”

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s dollar closed little changed at NT$30.030 against its U.S. counterpart, while Vietnam’s dong was unchanged at 20,845.

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