TOKYO, April 18, 2010 (AFP) - Speculation of an imminent yuan revaluation has boosted other Asian currencies against the dollar recently, reflecting the region's world-leading recovery from recession, say analysts.
With a move by Beijing to let the yuan appreciate against the dollar seen as increasingly likely in the near future, emerging Asian economies that compete directly with China are in line to benefit the most, they say.
"A Chinese currency revaluation would boost the export industries of countries that have trade relations with China," said Yunosuke Ikeda, senior forex strategist at Nomura Research Institute.
"Generally speaking it would help China's neighbours, while having little negative impact on the Chinese economy."
Despite rising against the euro, the dollar has fallen against a basket of Asian currencies this year. It is down 4 percent against the Australian dollar, linked to a commodity-rich economy driven by Chinese demand for raw materials.
The Korean won, the Malaysian ringgit and the Indian rupee in particular have rallied strongly. The dollar is down 6 percent against the ringgit, 5 percent against the won and 4 percent against the rupee.
Asian currencies are also likely to bounce from anticipation that other Asian central banks are moving to tighten their monetary policies, unlike their counterparts in more advanced economies, say analysts.
Singapore on Wednesday revalued its currency -- the city-state's principal monetary tool -- prompting speculation that China and South Korea may be next in line.
"Given this expectation, firm risk appetite, and more follow-through from Singapore's foreign exchange move, the outlook for other Asian currencies remains bullish," Credit Agricole analysts said.
Pressure is now growing on Beijing to raise interest rates and loosen currency controls after official data showed Thursday that the economy grew at a red-hot 11.9 percent in the first three months of the year.
The yuan was effectively pegged at about 6.8 to the dollar in mid-2008 as the financial crisis sank its teeth into global trade, after the unit rose by more than 20 percent since 2005 as China's export-driven economy soared.
Having recovered from the grip of recession, Asia is now "leading the global rebound," a recent World Bank report said.
In comparison the dollar has been pressured by a series of false dawns, and markets have repeatedly seen their recovery hopes dashed by disappointing data, reducing the chances of an imminent US rate rise, economists say.
"A yuan revaluation will add to the conviction that Asia can appreciate against the dollar even in a stronger dollar environment versus the euro," Royal Bank of Scotland analysts told Dow Jones Newswires.
However, who exactly stands to win and lose from a yuan revaluation is under debate with currencies affected differently by risk sentiment, exposure to commodities and how respective economies balance foreign reserves.
The yuan's peg against the dollar forces other export-oriented Asian economies to smooth their currencies’ performance against the greenback and, therefore, the yuan as they struggle to remain competitive.
A yuan appreciation against the greenback would boost the strength of other Asian nations against China's exporters, and reduce the need for Asian central banks to buy dollars to curb their currencies' ascent, analysts say.
"The Malaysian ringgit and the Singapore dollar are likely to benefit most from the revaluation, " said Ikeda, adding that the ascendant Australian dollar would be likely hit by profit-taking.
For the Japanese yen, however, the picture remains clouded.
Barclays Capital said in a recent report that the Japanese currency stands to gain the most because a yuan revaluation would increase investor concerns about China's growth and demand for commodities.
Currencies with higher commodity exposure, notably Australia, would be hit while commodity-importing Japan would stand to gain.
However, the impact of a higher yen hitting the repatriated earnings of Japanese exporters obscures the issue. Japan's mountainous public debt approaching 200 percent of GDP is also a potential driver against the yen.
"It does not necessarily follow that the Japanese authorities would be more tolerant of yen appreciation against the dollar," said Julian Jessop of Capital Economics.
What is agreed is that any rate move by Beijing would be slow and gradual. The yuan would have to rise "20 to 30 percent" to have a major impact on the broader economy, said Nomura's Ikeda. "We expect China to revalue its currency at around 5 percent on an annual basis."