Asian currencies: rupiah hits 19-month low as oil jumps

The Indonesian rupiah hit its lowest level on Tuesday since the days following the bombings in Bali in October 2002 as higher oil prices renewed pressure on Asian currencies.

Traders said the rupiah hit 9,350 per dollar, taking its losses on the day to more than two percent and its decline since April to 8.5 percent, prompting the central bank to step in with heavy dollar sales.

Indonesias chief economics minister said he was not worried about the weakening rupiah. Yet the rupiahs recovery towards the close gave rise to suspicion the central bank was intervening.

The rupiah has been under pressure since March from a combination of political uncertainty, sales of high-yielding assets by foreigners and hedging by local corporates.

There was additional pressure from oil prices, which rose overnight to near last weeks record highs on worries that a Saudi Arabian proposal to increase supplies would not be enough to meet rising global demand. Indonesia is a net importer of oil although it is a big exporter of gas.

There is still a huge position overhang and the fundamentals are getting worse, particularly around inflation and spending in a political campaign that is much closer run than people expected to see, said James Malcolm, currency strategist with J.P. Morgan.

As the currency fell, local corporations accustomed to a rising rupiah were hedging their exposure, traders said, exacerbating the currencys decline.

Political worries surrounding the elections have weighed on the rupiah after Aprils parliamentary elections resulted in no single party securing a majority. The uncertainty is likely to continue until presidential elections in July.

The rest of the region trailed the Japanese yen as traders debated which markets would bear the brunt of the higher oil prices and investors continued to avoid fresh positions in Asia.

Japanese stocks were lower, as were shares in South Korea, Thailand and Jakarta.

The concerns are pretty much the same. The story keeps moving around these three or four factors, said Sameer Goel, a strategist with Bank of America.

Chief among those factors have been shifting market expectations of when and how rapidly US interest rates will rise and, more recently, worries over oil prices.

Besides, anxiety over Chinas measures to cool its economy, violence in the Middle East, elections in India, Indonesia and the Philippines and political uncertainty in Taiwan and South Korea have been keeping currency markets on edge.

The Korean won was barely changed near 1,177 a dollar, the Thai baht weakened to 40.81/82 and the Taiwan dollar was lower in a 33.60-33.65 range.

The Taiwan dollar ended weaker on Tuesday on US dollar buying by foreign equity investors for remitting overseas, and the state-run oil company to pay for crude oil purchases. The local dollar closed at T$33.619 to the US dollar on the main Taipei Forex Inc exchange, against Mondays finish of T$33.588.

The South Korean won finished local trade at 1,177.7 per US dollar marginally down from 1,177.2 at Mondays close. It opened at 1,178.5 and moved between 1,177.3 and 1,179.2 during the session.

 

Source : Business Recorder

Jan 21, 2017


 
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