Asian Currencies Rise as Recession Fears Hit Dollar

 The dollar lost ground Thursday as Asian currencies staged a strong performance amid growing fears of a recession in the United States, dealers said.

 China allowed the yuan to appreciate beyond 7.0 to the dollar for the first time since a peg with the US currency was scrapped nearly three years ago, while the Singapore dollar hit an all-time high against the greenback.

   The dollar slid to 100.87 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade, down from 101.81 in New York on Wednesday.

   The euro firmed to 1.5834 dollars from 1.5827 but dropped to 159.77 yen from 161.15.

   "The U.S. economy is not getting any better and the housing sector remains weak," said Mark Wan, chief analyst at Hang Seng Investment Services Ltd. "The dollar will continue to be under pressure."

   Investors were speculating on the chances of coordinated action by finance chiefs from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations at a meeting on Friday to tackle global credit problems.

   But some analysts warned that anyone hoping for concrete joint action from the meeting would probably be disappointed.

   "The G7 will likely be a non-event. They won't come up with a new policy coordination to crack the weak dollar," said Tomoko Fujii, head of economic strategy at Bank of America in Tokyo.

   The greenback fell as investors bet on further US interest rate cuts "in response to re-emerging worries about the depth and duration of the US recession," noted NAB Capital strategist John Kyriakopoulos.

   The International Monetary Fund predicted that the world's largest economy would see growth in 2008 of just 0.5 percent and said a "mild" recession appears inevitable.

   The Fed has slashed its rates by a cumulative 300 basis points since September last year to ease a credit crunch and boost the economy. It is widely expected to further cut rates this month, which could weaken the dollar further.

   The euro was supported by expectations that the European Central Bank would leave interest rates in the eurozone unchanged later Thursday.

   "The euro is a better bet than the dollar because the eurozone economy is doing much better than the US," said Hang Seng's Wan.

    China's central bank set the yuan at 6.992 against the dollar. The yuan has now risen about 18 percent against the dollar since before it was cut loose from a peg to the greenback in July 2005.

   The Singapore dollar hit all-time highs against the greenback after Singapore's de facto central bank further tightened monetary policy.

   The US currency was at 1.3586 Singapore dollars in late Asian trade, down from 1.3810 a day earlier. It fell to 9,194.00 Indonesian rupiah from 9,215.00 and to 31.64 Thai baht from 31.72.

   The dollar slipped to 30.31 Taiwan dollars from 30.52 and to 41.62 Philippine pesos from 41.67, while rising to 976.35 South Korean won from 976.00.

Source: AFP

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