Asian currencies – What’s correlated with what?

Asian currencies as reflected in the performance of the ADXY index have been on bit of a rollercoaster ride over recent weeks, dropping sharply in the face of a resurgent USD (note most Asian currencies have had a high correlation with the movements in the USD index over the past three-months) only to strengthen briefly before resuming weakness. Since the end of last month almost all Asian currencies are weaker, with the biggest falls led by MYR, KRW, SGD and INR.

Correlation analysis shows that Asian currencies are not particularly being influenced by yield differentials at present, with only USD/IDR and USD/PHP possessing a significant correlation with 2-year bond differentials. In the case of the IDR there has been a narrowing in the yield differential with the US over recent weeks as Indonesian yields have dropped, a factor that could be undermining the IDR at present.

Similarly risk aversion does not appear to be playing a major role in influencing Asian currencies, with a low correlation registered between my Risk Aversion Barometer and all Asian currencies over the past three-months. However, equity performance is more important for some currencies, with the SGD, THB, PHP, IDR and TWD all having a high sensitivity to the performance of their local equity market. Interestingly the INR is less sensitive to equity performance even though India has recorded heavy outflows of equity capital over recent weeks.

Asian currencies are likely to continue to track the gyrations of the USD in general over the short-term as has been the case over recent weeks but it will not be a one way bet for the USD. Whilst I remain bullish on the USD’s prospects over the medium term I am cautious about the ability of the USD to sustain its currency bounce given that there has not been any back up in US bond yields or any clarification on what the Fed will do after QE2 has been completed.

Against this background I do not expect Asian currency weakness to extend much further. Top picks for the year are KRW and PHP as well as the CNY. In any case given the strong influence of general USD direction on Asian currencies, I suggest playing long Asian FX positions versus EUR over coming months, especially given that the EUR is likely to slide much further against the USD by year end, with 1.30 remaining my target.

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