Biden win boosts Asia FX sentiment

    Indonesian rupiah banknotes being counted at a money changer in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Reuters Photo)

    Investors took long positions in all Asian currencies for the first time since early September, a Reuters poll showed, as they bet a Joe Biden presidency in the United States would foster more stable trade and foreign policies towards the region and Beijing.

    With US-China relations at their worst in decades over disputes ranging from technology and trade to Hong Kong and the coronavirus, a Biden administration is expected to take a more measured and multilateral approach, which could clear the way for a recovery in Asia’s virus-hit economies.

    “Biden’s presidency may bring a fresh chapter to US foreign policy … The tariff-led trade negotiations and retaliation may be replaced by a more diplomatic and strategic approach to deal with US trade deficits,” Margaret Yang, a strategist at DailyFX, wrote in a note earlier this week.

    Bets in favor of the South Korean won outpaced those in its peers and stood at their highest since early July, 2014, while bullish positions in the Chinese yuan and Singapore dollar strengthened, the fortnightly poll of 16 respondents showed.

    The won is now among Asia’s top performing currencies this year, benefiting from recent data pointing to stronger exports.

    Sentiment towards the Indonesian rupiah reversed, with positions now turning bullish after more than two months.

    Concerns over central bank independence had pressured the rupiah earlier this year, but the currency has rebounded sharply since the US election as a drop in US bond yields led investors to push funds into Indonesia’s high-yielding debt market.

    Bets on the Thai baht turned firmly bullish, climbing to their highest level since late January.

    The currency hit a 10-month peak on Wednesday, driven by capital inflows as promising developments over a COVID-19 vaccine boosted prospects for the economy and its key tourism sector.

    While market participants still held long positions in the Indian rupee, sentiment towards the currency remained the weakest in the region despite massive dollar inflows into the country’s equities.

    Government sources last week confirmed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would continue to buy US dollars to prevent rupee appreciation and that authorities were keen to keep the rupee competitive to help provide an export boost.

    “We expect the central bank’s intervention could continue and reserves would increase at a steady pace … Strong inflows via FII or FDI are likely to keep the rupee stronger and at the same time the RBI will be on guard to curb any major appreciation,” said Gaurang Somaiya, forex analyst at Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

    The Asian currency positioning poll is focused on what analysts and fund managers believe are the current market positions in nine Asian emerging market currencies: the Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Singapore dollar, Indonesian rupiah, Taiwan dollar, Indian rupee, Philippine peso, Malaysian ringgit and the Thai baht.

    The poll uses estimates of net long or short positions on a scale of minus 3 to plus 3. A score of plus 3 indicates the market is significantly long on the US dollar.