BENGALURU: Most Asian currencies firmed on Tuesday, with the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah leading the pack, as the U.S. dollar remained under pressure from waning conviction about any immediate U.S. Federal Reserve stimulus tapering.
The baht extended its gains into a third consecutive session, appreciating as much as 0.4% to hit a near two-month high, while the Indonesian rupiah rose for a second day to scale a near one-month high.
The U.S. dollar index hovered near its two-week lows against a basket of currencies, stabilising from falls after Powell's speech last week that offered no clear signs on the central bank's plan to cut its asset purchases.
"Asian currencies may be in a good position this week, with risk environment leaning broadly risk-on, and the market still digesting Powell's dovish leanings," analysts at Singapore-bank OCBC said in a note.
The next thing on investors' radar is the U.S. non-farm payrolls data due later in the week. A weaker August jobs numbers could solidify the case for the Fed prolonging its dovish stance.
The baht was further supported by Thailand's cabinet approving $1.37 billion in relief measures on Monday to counter the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak as data on Monday showed factory output growth slowed down in July.
"In the near-term we could see the Thai baht rally toward the strong support zone around 32.25 from more foreign fund inflows in Thai assets, especially equities due to optimism over the COVID situation," Poon Panichpibool, markets strategists at Krung Thai Bank said.
"However, the fast rally of the baht recently could urge the Bank of Thailand to intervene in the market to lower the volatility," Panichpibool added.
The currency was set to appreciate more than 1% in August, while equities in Bangkok, which traded nearly flat on Tuesday, were on track to end the month nearly 8% stronger. Indonesia's rupiah was also set to add more than 1% in August, with the shares in Jakarta eyeing a more than 3% gain over the month.
The Philippine peso, the outlier in the region, declined 0.3% on Tuesday but was set to add 0.4% in August. South Korea's won, on the other hand, was on a path to depreciate for a third straight month.
Elsewhere, equities largely traded in the red, with Singapore shares declining the most to hit their lowest since mid-May as weak factory activity data from China, the region's biggest trading partner, showing signs of increasing economic pressures. Markets in Malaysia were closed for a holiday.
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