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Dollar retreats again in Asia as solid data offsets virus worries

CoronavirusOct 27, 2020 01:10AM ET
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By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The dollar handed back some recent gains against most of its major rivals on Tuesday, as strong regional economic data helped to offset worries about a second wave of COVID-19 cases in Europe and the United States.

Profits at China's industrial firms rose for a fifth straight month in September and South Korea's economy roared back to growth, official data showed.

That supported the yuan and sent the won soaring close to a seven-month peak. It also unwound some of the previous day's modest dollar gains against major currencies amid an equities selloff driven by a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Against a basket of currencies the dollar fell 0.1% (=USD). It was lower by about the same margin on the euro, yen and pound and it slipped a little bit further against the Aussie and kiwi.

"Trade numbers in Asia have been improving. Most countries are now reporting positive year-on-year export growth. For now, that is helping to offset nervousness about the COVID outbreaks in Europe," said ANZ's head of Asia research Khoon Goh.

"It's the export-oriented currencies that are outperforming in Asia," he said. The Canadian dollar also recovered some of Monday's selloff as the price of oil stabilised.

Christopher Wong, senior FX strategist at Maybank in Singapore, said the region's firm handle on the coronavirus, especially in North Asia, was also a positive factor, with Japan, Singapore, South Korea and China combined posting fewer than a thousand new cases a day through October.

That compares with the United States, Russia and France, all of which hit fresh records with tens of thousands of new daily coronavirus infections this week.

Europe needs a "serious acceleration" in the fight against the coronavirus, with the spectre of further shutdowns looming, a top World Health Organization official said on Monday.


Growing wariness about the U.S. presidential election kept a lid on large currency movements, however. Since the vote is just a week away many investors appear to have already figured out their positions.

Data shows long bets on the yen shrank for a fourth straight week last week, as investors wagered on a victory for Democrat Joe Biden, though short bets against the yen also fell - pointing to heightened uncertainty around the vote.

"People are wary of putting on fresh positions given the event risk," said Mayank Mishra, an FX strategist at Standard Chartered (OTC:SCBFF) Bank in Singapore. "Price action over the next one week may remain choppy," he said.

"The view we've taken is that the medium-term dollar bearish dynamics remain in place, irrespective of who comes to the White House. The short-term part may be affected by the outcome, and we believe that a Biden win is likely to accelerate the dollar downside."

If the Democrats also secure the Senate, a Biden-led administration is likely to press for a larger coronavirus aid package, lifting sentiment, widening the U.S. current account deficit and weakening the dollar.

Ahead on Tuesday, investors are looking to U.S. consumer confidence figures and the Richmond Fed manufacturing index at 1400 GMT, as well as the progress of the virus in Europe and the United States.

Elsewhere, the Taiwan dollar rose by as much as 1% in Asia to a more than nine-year high. The Turkish lira hit a record low on Monday amid a slew of geopolitical concerns and as a surprise central bank decision to keep its policy rate on hold last week reveberates through markets.

Dollar retreats again in Asia as solid data offsets virus worries

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