SINGAPORE: Asian currencies rallied on Thursday, with the Philippine peso hitting a six-year high, as the yen jumped versus the dollar after strong Japanese economic growth data lifted expectations for a rate increase next week.
The yen rose about 1 percent to a one-month high at about 119.77 per dollar boosted by news that Japan’s economy in the fourth quarter grew at an annualised pace of 4.8 percent -- beating market expectations for a 3.8 percent rise.
This helped push the peso up about a quarter of a percent to 48.25 per dollar its highest in six years.
The South Korean won jumped as much as 0.6 percent to a one-week peak at about 933 per dollar, while the Taiwan dollar gained half a percent to around 32.83 per dollar.
Weakness in the U.S. dollar overnight after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said inflation pressures were starting to ease added to the positive tone in Asian currency markets.
The Fed’s comments were seen boosting the chances of a U.S. interest rate cut later this year. A Reuters poll of U.S. primary bond dealers shows that they expect the Fed to keep monetary policy steady at least through mid-year.
“The overall tone set overnight by Bernanke was a good picture of the U.S. economy, so that is favourable for the global environment and risk taking,” said Thio Chin Loo, a currency strategist at BNP Paribas.
In the Philippines, expectations that December data on overseas’ workers remittances, due later this session, would show a strong rise helped underpin the peso.
“We saw heavy NDF (non-deliverable forwards) selling in New York last night in line with the rally in the yen against the dollar and that’s spilling over into peso trade this morning,” said a trader in Manila.
“The remittance numbers are expected to be strong again, so this is all leading to a positive start.”
The Singapore dollar was up slightly at about 1.5350 per U.S. dollar, but lagged gains seen in most of the other regionals as the market held a tight range ahead of the Singapore budget later in the day.
Singapore is expected to unveil a largely balanced budget, primarily geared at tackling the country’s widening income gap.
“The market is watching the budget and given the strong growth data this week and expectations for strong growth this year, there is a positive tone on the Sing dollar and it is hard to fight an appreciation path,” said Thio.