March 7, 2019 / 6:05 AM / 4 months ago

EM ASIA FX-Asia FX mostly firmer, rupee and peso lead gains

    * Rupee below 70/USD
    * Peso up after week of policy easing talk 
    * Thai foreign outflows pick up in March 

 (Adds text, updates prices)
    By Nikhil Nainan
    March 7 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies rose on Thursday
as investors awaited new catalysts after pricing in policy and
geopolitical cues over the week, with the rupee at its firmest
since the start of the year.
    Amid headlines from China's annual parliamentary meeting and
monetary policy cues in other parts of Asia over the week,
investors are awaiting progress on a trade deal as Washington
and Beijing have been locked in intense negotiations to end a
months-long trade war.
    The dollar index, which measures the greenback
against a basket of six key rivals, traded sideways on Thursday
at 96.878.
    The Philippine peso, which fell sharply earlier this
week on cooling inflation and a new central bank governor that
spurred talk of policy easing, rose 0.2 percent to 52.1.
    Meanwhile, the Indian rupee fell below the 70 rupee
per dollar level for the first time since early January, after a
sharp rise in early trade, buoyed by rising fund inflows. The
unit was last at 69.993.
    However, a Reuters poll showed that the rupee's weak start
to 2019 is an indication of how it will perform over the coming
year citing uncertainty ahead of a general election in May and a
potential trade conflict with the United States.
    The yuan inched up against the dollar to 6.710, paring
losses from a near two-week low hit the previous session.
    Its value also surged on a trade-weighted basis against a
basket of its trading partners' currencies, rising to 95.29,
according to Reuters calculations based on official data, the
highest level since early July.     
    Indonesian markets were closed for a public holiday. 
    The baht edged 0.1 percent lower to 31.870, bucking the
overall trend, ahead of a ruling by the Constitutional Court
later on Thursday. The court will rule on whether to ban an
opposition party for nominating a princess as its candidate for
prime minister in a general election.
    OCBC said in a note on Wednesday that "tomorrow's ruling
will be worth closely monitoring as it may trigger a start of
heightened political risks that could derail the Thai economy." 
    The currency started the year with strong gains, making it
the region's best performer, which raised concerns that it could
harm the country's export growth. But it later eased with the
central bank on Monday saying the baht is likely to remain
volatile and that it had taken action on excessive moves to help
the private sector adjust.
    A Thailand-based trader who did not wish to be named said
foreign outflows have weighed on the currency as investors look
to reduce their risk ahead of upcoming elections.  
    Foreign investors have sold $244.6 million in Thai equities
in March as of Wednesday's close, compared to $393.5 million of
outflows in the last one month as of Wednesday's close. 
 Change on the day at 0459 GMT                    
 Currency               Latest bid  Previous day  Pct Move
 Japan yen              111.670     111.75        +0.07
 Sing dlr               1.357       1.3573        +0.06
 Taiwan dlr             30.861      30.852        -0.03
 Korean won             1127.700    1128.8        +0.10
 Baht                   31.870      31.84         -0.09
 Peso                   52.100      52.2          +0.19
 Rupee                  69.993      70.28         +0.41
 Ringgit                4.082       4.087         +0.12
 Yuan                   6.710       6.7125        +0.03
 Change so far in 2019                            
 Currency               Latest bid  End 2018      Pct Move
 Japan yen              111.670     109.56        -1.89
 Sing dlr               1.357       1.3627        +0.46
 Taiwan dlr             30.861      30.733        -0.41
 Korean won             1127.700    1115.70       -1.06
 Baht                   31.870      32.55         +2.13
 Peso                   52.100      52.47         +0.71
 Rupee                  69.993      69.77         -0.32
 Ringgit                4.082       4.1300        +1.18
 Yuan                   6.710       6.8730        +2.42
 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru
Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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