Asian currencies mostly up against the dollar, yen falls

Asian currencies ended the week mostly up against the dollar but the yen fell after a surprise improvement in the US unemployment rate and narrowing job losses there.

JAPANESE YEN: The yen slid back against the dollar in the past week as upbeat US economic data fuelled greenback-buying rather than stoking investors' appetite for riskier currencies.

The yen slumped to 97.51 to the dollar in New York late Friday, compared with 94.69 to the dollar there a week earlier, after the release of better-than-expected US jobs numbers.

Hours earlier in Tokyo, the Japanese currency stood at 95.38 to the dollar at the end of daytime trading, against 95.68 yen a week earlier, after touching the week's local low of 95.56.

"The US dollar rallied in response to surprisingly strong non-farm payroll results, which was surprising in that the currency has generally only traded as a 'safe haven' asset," Forex Capital Markets currency strategist Terri Belkas said in New York.

She said the US Federal Reserve's interest rate decision and US retail sales figures in the coming week "will be important as a gauge of what will drive the US dollar going forward: economic data or risk appetite."

In Tokyo, the yen fell back after rising to the week's local high of 94.60 to the dollar on Monday amid concerns about the US economy.

"Optimism is growing that the (US) economy has hit bottom and that it has exited the worst of the downturn. The market is out of its phase of utter hopelessness," Hachijuni Bank forex strategist Masatsugu Miyata said on Friday.

AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR: The Australian dollar took a sharp turn upward, as rallying base metals and an improvement to the economic outlook pushed it to a ten-month high, dealers said.

The commodities-based Aussie closed Friday at 83.88 US cents, up from 82.79 US cents a week earlier.

The central bank held the cash rate steady at 3.0 percent for a fourth consecutive month, and accompanying commentary suggested its next move would be to raise rates, not lower them, said AMP Capital Investors economist Shane Oliver.

"Commodity prices continued to push higher and this along with the RBA’s (Reserve Bank of Australia's) removal of its easing bias and stronger-than-expected economic data saw the Australian dollar push back above 84 US cents, before falling back a bit," Oliver said.

ANZ economist Amber Rabinov said the push signalled a sustained move into a range of between 80 and 84 cents, and made a move as high as 90 US cents by year end a distinct possibility, if commodities continued to outperform.

"This week saw the Australian dollar surge through a key retracement level to a 10-and-a-half month high of 84.71 US cents, some 10 percent above its July low of 0.7703," Rabinov said.

"These moves have prompted us to upwardly revise our forecasts. We now expect the Aussie at 80 cents by end-2009 and 86 cents by end-2010," she added.

NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR: The New Zealand dollar finished local trading Friday at 67.07 US cents, up from 65.68 the previous week.

The Bank of New Zealand said optimism about the global economic recovery and improving risk appetite saw investors step back from safe haven positions in currencies such as the US dollar and Japanese yen.

This in turn benefited growth-sensitive currencies such as the kiwi.

The New Zealand dollar put in a strong performance in July and seemed to have an aura of invincibility, the BNZ said.

CHINESE YUAN: The yuan closed at 6.8318 to the dollar Friday, compared with Thursday's close of 6.8312 and a closing price of 6.8321 to the dollar the week before.

The central bank had set the yuan central parity rate at 6.8316 to the dollar Friday, compared with 6.8304 on Thursday.

The People's Bank of China allows a trading band of 0.5 percent on either side of the midpoint.

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

INDONESIAN RUPIAH: The rupiah ended at 9,960 to the dollar, down from 9,935 the week before.

PHILIPPINE PESO: The Philippine peso strengthened to 47.75 to the dollar on Friday afternoon from 48.09 to the dollar on July 31.

SINGAPOREAN DOLLAR: The dollar was at 1.4361 Singapore dollars on Friday from 1.4402 the week before.

SOUTH KOREAN WON: The won strengthened marginally over the week to close at 1,225 to the dollar compared with 1,228.50 a week earlier, after trading in a tight 1,216.4-1,228.5 band.

TAIWANESE DOLLAR: The Taiwan dollar rose in the week to August 6 to close at 32.792 against the US dollar. The local currency closed at 32.818 the previous week. Financial markets were closed Friday.

THAI BAHT: The Thai baht rose against the dollar over the past week on fund flows into the stock exchange and in line with regional currencies, dealers said.

The baht closed Friday at 33.97-98 baht to one dollar compared with last week's close of 34.03-05.

Source: AFP

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