Indonesia rupiah, stocks hit multi-month lows after inflation data

A man shows his new Rupiah bank notes, to be given to family members during the Eid festival which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in Jakarta on March 28, 2024. -AFP

Indonesia's rupiah and stocks hit multi-month lows on Monday after stronger-than-expected inflation data, while other Asian stock markets gained as upbeat China manufacturing data stoked optimism about demand in the world's second largest economy.

The rupiah fell as much as 0.4% to 15,910 per U.S. dollar, its lowest since Nov. 1, prompting intervention by the Bank Indonesia (BI) to arrest further declines. The Indonesian benchmark stock index fell 1.8% to its lowest since Jan. 30 as data showed that annual inflation last month rose at the quickest pace in seven months.

The Indonesian central bank is focused on currency volatility and left its policy rate unchanged at 6% for the fourth consecutive meeting in February. It is likely to maintain a cautious approach to policy easing, and wait for the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut interest rates first.

Other Asian currencies were largely subdued, with the Singapore dollar up 0.1%. The Thai baht slipped 0.1%, while the Taiwanese dollar was unchanged. The Indian forex market was closed for a bank holiday.

Asian stock markets advanced on prospects of a recovery in Chinese demand after data showed that manufacturing activity expanded at the fastest pace in 13 months last month.

Stocks in China jumped 1%, hitting their highest since March 22. India's blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index rose as much as 0.91% to a record high of 22,529.95.

Shares in Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia rose between 0.4% and 1.1%.

"China's PMI holding up is offering some reasons (for Asian FX) to be optimistic," said Christopher Wong, OCBC's currency strategist.

At 0644 GMT, the yuan was trading 0.1% lower at 7.23 per U.S. dollar, hovering at its lowest level since Nov. 17.

"Apart from USD, moves in JPY and RMB will also be in focus as they can influence Asian FX," Wong said.

In the United States, data on the latest core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, came in "more along the lines of what we want to see," Fed Chair Powell said on Friday.

Markets now await March inflation data from South Korea and Thailand, a key metric which will likely sway central bank stances.

"Thailand's data will be in greater focus as a softer-than- expected print should add to expectations of earlier BOT (Bank of Thailand) cut. This may have implications on THB," OCBC's Wong said.

Traders will also keep tabs on U.S. March manufacturing PMI data, due later in the day.


** World Bank cuts Thai growth to 2.8% on weaker exports

** South Korea's March exports up for sixth month on chip sales

** Philippines' budget deficit at $2.93 bln in February - Reuters

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