Asian currencies mainly up against dollar

Asian currencies ended the week mainly up against the dollar, but the Japanese yen fell on a raft of gloomy data highlighting the difficulties faced by the world's second largest economy.

JAPANESE YEN: The yen slipped against the dollar in the past week following the release of a series of gloomy economic data showing Japan's economic woes, as players adjusted positions ahead of a market holiday in Tokyo.

Ailing US auto giant Chrysler's decision to file for bankruptcy for rehabilitate itself prompted dollar buying in Asian trading on Friday, with Italy's Fiat promising to help the US company.

The Japanese currency fell to 99.08 to the dollar in New York late Friday, from 97.13 a week ago.

Markets appeared to be bullish because Chrysler applied for Chapter 11 protection and did not move to liquidate its assets to repay its creditors, said SMBC strategist Daisuke Uno.

But some market watchers warned that the greenback's rebound might not last long given nervousness about the release this week of the results of Washington's "stress tests" to judge the health of major banks.

"Players have recently been somewhat optimistic about the US economy, but results of stress tests cannot be all positive," Mamoru Arai, a senior dealer at Mizuho Corporate Bank, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"Thus, any negative findings in the results would prompt risk-aversion movement."

Japanese financial markets will be closed through Wednesday for a series of national holidays. Trading will resume on Thursday.

AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR: The Australian dollar was expected to be traded in a tight range this week, with anxious investors closely monitoring US banks and the outbreak of swine flu, dealers said.

The Australian dollar closed Friday at 73.03 US cents, up from the previous week's close of 71.33 US cents.

"Australian dollar trade remains within a narrow 70 US cent to 73 US cent range," said ANZ economist Amber Rabinov.

"Sentiment continues to turn on a dime and in turn so does the fortune of the Australian dollar."

A busy week of data in the United States would heavily influence any moves to the currency, she said, particularly the release of bank "stress test" results by the US Federal Reserve.

"A number of risk events are also on the horizon for the Australian dollar," she said. "An escalation in swine flu threat could see demand for the US dollar improve."

Locally, the central bank was due on Tuesday to deliver its latest decision on interest rates, and the accompanying statement on monetary policy would give some insight into future moves, she said.

"Worse than expected releases of (US) retail sales, international trade and labour force data could trigger a sell off towards 70.70 US cents, and then lower to 69.50 cents if the negativity takes hold," Rabinov said.

NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR: The New Zealand dollar finished local trading Friday at 56.55 US cents, slightly up from 56.20 US cents the previous week.

Gains earlier in the week were lost Thursday when the kiwi fell one cent after the central bank cut the official interest rate by half a percentage point to a record low 2.5 percent.

The cut was widely expected, and the selling was due to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's unusual announcement that the rate was expected to remain at or below 2.5 percent until the latter part of next year.

CHINESE YUAN: The yuan closed at 6.8230 to the dollar Thursday, compared with 6.8273 to the dollar the week before.

The central bank had set the yuan central parity rate at 6.8250 to the dollar Thursday, compared with 6.8265 on Wednesday.

The People's Bank of China allows a trading band of 0.5 percent on either side of the midpoint. Friday was a public holiday in China.

HONG KONG DOLLAR: The US-pegged Hong Kong unit ended the week at 7.751, unchanged from a week earlier.

INDONESIAN RUPIAH: The rupiah ended at 10,630 to the dollar, up from 10,805 the week before.

PHILIPPINE PESO: The Philippine peso finished the week at 48.26, up from 48.54 the week before.

SINGAPORE DOLLAR: The dollar was at 1.4747 Singapore dollars from 1.4960 the week before.

SOUTH KOREAN WON: The South Korean currency strengthened against the dollar this week to close at 1,282.00 won, up sharply from 1,343.20 a week earlier.

The greenback tumbled against the won on Friday following gains on Wall Street and reports that South Korea posted an all-time record current account surplus of 6.65 billion dollars in March.

Dealers said the won was likely to move between 1,272 won and 1,323 won to the dollar when the market reopens Monday.

TAIWAN DOLLAR: The Taiwan dollar finished the week at 33.233 to the US dollar, up from 33.711 a week earlier.

THAI BAHT: The Thai baht rose against the dollar over the past week, following the regional trend as investors became more optimistic about global economic prospects, dealers said.

The Thai unit closed Thursday at 35.25-36 baht to one dollar compared to last Friday's close of 35.37-38. Markets in Thailand were closed Friday for Labour Day.

Source: AFP

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