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Asia FX muted as markets weigh Fed minutes, Japanese yen rises

Published 01/04/2023, 11:00 PM
Updated 01/04/2023, 11:08 PM
© Reuters.

By Ambar Warrick Most Asian currencies moved little on Thursday as markets weighed mixed signals on monetary policy from the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December meeting, while the Japanese yen was supported by reports that the Bank of Japan plans to raise its inflation forecasts.

The yen rose 0.4% to 132.13 against the dollar, sticking close to a seven-month high hit earlier this week. Reuters reported that the BoJ plans to raise its forecast for core inflation in quarterly projections due this month, although the bank still has no plans to immediately raise interest rates.

Still, the yen has been on a tear since early-December after the BoJ unexpectedly struck a hawkish tone in its final meeting for 2022. Markets are pricing in the possibility of the bank eventually reversing its ultra-loose monetary policy later this year.

But that unwinding is also contingent on the path of U.S. monetary policy. The minutes of the Fed’s December meeting showed that while policymakers supported a slower pace of interest rate hikes, they also want rates to be kept higher for longer.

The prospect of smaller rate hikes points to lesser immediate pressure on Asian currencies. But with rates staying higher for longer, most regional units will likely see limited upside in the coming months.

The dollar index and dollar futures also showed a muted reaction to the minutes, as other readings showed that U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for a second straight month in December.

Sentiment towards the dollar was dented in recent sessions by the possibility of a U.S. recession, as well as expectations of smaller near-term hikes in interest rates. Markets are positioning for a 25 basis point hike by the Fed in February.

Markets are also awaiting U.S. nonfarm payrolls data for December, due on Friday.

The Indian rupee, Taiwan dollar, and Singapore dollar moved less than 0.1% in either direction on Thursday. The Thai baht bucked the trend, rising 0.3% after data showed consumer inflation met expectations in December.

The Chinese yuan inched higher after data showed that while business activity contracted again in December, its pace of contraction appeared to have slowed after the country relaxed several anti-COVID restrictions during the month.

Focus is now squarely on a Chinese economic reopening, as the country faces a massive spike in COVID-19 infections.

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