Asian FX strengthens

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    Most Asian currencies strengthened on Friday, as news of a trade truce between the United States and China helped ease concerns about a slowing global economy.

    Washington has agreed to suspend tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods expected to go into effect on Sunday and roll back existing tariffs in return for Beijing’s pledge to hike US farm product purchase in 2020, Reuters reported based on sources.

    “I believe (China’s) aversion to making an agricultural commitment was a factor holding up a deal up until now, so if this has now been overcome, it could be viewed as a concession by the US side,” Robert Carnell, chief economist head of research, Asia-Pacific at ING said in a note.

    However, investors are waiting for a formal confirmation before placing any heavy bets on fears that the tariffs could be yet imposed if the deal does not go according to plan.

    “Fact is, thornier issues such as China’s industrial policy have been left on the backburner, and tariffs may be re-imposed if execution of the “Big Deal” falls short,” Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank, said in a note.

    The Chinese yuan which has been range-bound for most of the week firmed as much as 1 percent to its strongest since Aug. 2.

    The South Korean won strengthened about 1.7 percent for the week, logging its best week in nearly six months. The won, which is the worst performing currency in the region so far this year, has been the worst hit by the prolonged trade war given its trade dependency on China.

    The Indian rupee firmed 0.3 percent, logging its eighth day of strength against the dollar.

    The country’s retail price inflation in November jumped to a 40-month high, breaching the central bank target for a second straight month.

    Economists say the central bank will likely hold rates steady due to rising inflation, with the next meeting of the central bank due in February.

    The Philippine peso was the outlier in the region, weakening marginally. The country’s central bank held its key policy rates on Thursday on the back of improving growth outlook.

    However, some economists expect the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to resume policy easing next year. – Reuters

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