Market Overview

East Asian Currencies Rise Despite Poor Economic Performance

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The East Asian currencies rose on Friday, in spite of poor economic results coming from the East Asian economies. At around 6 am GMT, the U.S. dollar lost 0.02% against the Hong Kong dollar and 0.08% against the Singapore dollar. The big winner so far is the South Korean won, as the greenback surrendered 0.24% of its value to trade around 1078.95. The greenback is holding firm against the Japanese yen, however, trading at 80.51, the same level as yesterday's close.

The East Asian currencies have managed to shake off disappointing economic data, it seems. Today's big underperformer is Singapore, whose industrial production in May declined by 3.8% from a month earlier, when most analysts had predicted a rise of 4%. On a yearly basis, Singapore's industrial production is 17.5% lower, much below analysts' forecast of -9.2%.

In South Korea, consumer confidence fell from a three month high. In June, South Korea's consumer confidence stood at 102, down from 104 in May. At the same time, the country's expected inflation remained unchanged at 3.9%, just below the Korean central bank's inflation target of 4%.

The East Asian Tigers are big exporters to the West and some analysts might view disappointing results in East Asia as yet another sign of how fragile the economic recovery in Europe and North America really is. If traders are reading these numbers as a warning for the performance of the Western economies, it might explain why the currencies of Singapore and South Korea have managed to rise in light of disappointing economic data.

East Asia's second largest economy, Japan, is still struggling with deflation. According to the Bank of Japan, Japan's corporate services price index fell in May by 0.9% (year-over-year), when analysts had predicted a milder fall of 0.8%. On a monthly basis, the May value was 0.3% below April's.

Deflation has been hitting Japan's economy for some time. Along with energy shortages and supply disruptions caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami, it seems the overall picture for the Japanese economy remains bleak.

Not all data point to a trend of falling prices, however, as one research suggests Japan's May core CPI could rise by 0.5%, from a year earlier, which would be a second consecutive month of rising price levels, after April's core CPI stood at 0.6%.

The East Asian countries are commodity poor and their economies rely heavily on imports of raw materials. The prices of major commodities have provided some tailwind for the East Asian currencies as crude oil fell 0.22% to $91.66. The price of natural gas was 0.86% below yesterday's close at $4.191, while silver lost 1.08% of its value to trade around $34.95. The only major commodities making gains in today's early trading were gold, rising 0.03% to $1,521.85 and copper, climbing 0.59% to $4.089.

Not all East Asian currencies were making gains against the dollar today. The dollar rose 0.13% against the Chinese yuan (6.4741), 0.2% against the Thai baht (30.6650) and 0.23% against the Malaysian ringgit (3.0395).

Traders who believe that the East Asian economies, in spite of recent setbacks, are fundamentally strong, which should provide a lot of tailwind for their currencies, will be interested in the Market Vectors Chinese Renminbi/USD ETN (NYSE: CNY), the WisdomTree Dreyfus Japanese Yen Fund (NYSE: JYF), the iShares MSCI Singapore Index Fund (NYSE: EWS) and the IQ South Korea Small Cap ETF (NYSE: SKOR).

Other traders might be worried that the economic recovery in the West might take a downturn, especially in the light of increasing debt problems in the Eurozone and the United States, which should take its toll on the East Asian exports, will be more interested in shorting the iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund (NYSE: EWY) and the Market Vectors China ETF (NYSE: PEK).

Posted-In: News Emerging Market ETFs Commodities Currency ETFs Forex Economics Markets ETFs

 

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