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Markets Upbeat Ahead of FOMC and Trump Decision; Korean Won Best in Asia-Pac

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Ahead of major announcements in the coming days, investors were in surprisingly good spirits on Wednesday, indicated by a stronger New Zealand dollar, won, rupee and a faltering yen.

Weakness in Asia-Pac FX would have been forgiven ahead of Thursday’s announcements by the FOMC (Wednesday in the US and Europe), Bank of England and Donald Trump, who announces his decision on the next Federal Reserve Chair; not to mention Friday’s US payrolls data. All is well however, and nowhere else is this more apparent than in the market for the Korean won.

 

South Korean Won

As of writing, a little after 9pm in Singapore, USD/KRW stands precisely at 1112.0 – the pair’s lowest level (the won’s highest) since July.

By its own standards, the won is on fire at present. A 1.6% appreciation against the dollar since Friday might not sound like much, but that’s roughly equivalent to 40% of USD/KRW’s April-October range. More importantly, recent strength in the won sets up an attack on the so far impenetrable 1110 per dollar level – a break of which might spur far more significant gains.

Given the day’s dismal Korean data, it can certainly be said that won strength is a product of positive investor sentiment and not one of economics. Investors learned on Wednesday that prices in South Korea are growing at their slowest pace in ten months, at 1.8%, which threatens expectations for an imminent rate hike by the Bank of Korea, and that annualized export growth has tumbled to just 7.1%, from 35% one month ago.

 

New Zealand Dollar

The New Zealand dollar – a currency battered in recent months – climbed at one stage on Wednesday by 1.3% to 69.306 against the greenback and to 0.5954 against the euro, marking one-week highs. The currency has since given back a portion of its gains but remains comfortably up on the day.

The kiwi received a boost on Wednesday morning following the release of New Zealand’s latest employment data. Third-quarter jobs growth of 2.2% was well above the median estimate of 0.8% and the second-quarter decline of 0.1%. A greater number of people in work also drove the unemployment rate down to a nine-year low of 4.6%.

Wednesday’s rise in the kiwi does little, however, to mask its recent losses. The currency has lost nearly 10% of its value against USD since late July and nearly 8% against the euro.

 

Indian Rupee

A USD/INR rate on Wednesday of 64.554 reflected a five-week high in the rupee’s buying power and CAD/INR tested 50.0 for the first time since July.

With little on the Indian economic calendar this week and next, rupee valuations will be driven in the short term by what happens in the US, even more so than other currencies in the region.

 

Japanese Yen

Investors felt little need for safe havens on Wednesday and consequently the yen weakened across the board. Markets for Japan’s currency were also downbeat following Tuesday’s downward adjustment to the Bank of Japan’s 2017/2018 inflation forecast, which is now 0.8%, from 1.1%. The bank’s short-term interest rate, target for bond yields and inflation forecasts for the 2018-2020 period were unchanged.

Weakness in the yen sent USD/JPY up 0.6% and back above 114, and GBP/JPY up 0.7% to a one-month high of 151.93.

 

Elsewhere…

Elsewhere in Asia-Pac, when last seen the Australian dollar and Chinese yuan had both strengthened by 0.4%. AUD/USD and USD/CNY stood at 0.7688 and 6.608 respectively.

The Singapore dollar, Taiwan dollar, Philippine peso and Malaysian ringgit were little changed.

 

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