By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com — Most Asian currencies moved little on Wednesday as traders digested less hawkish than expected comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, while the Indian rupee advanced as the Reserve Bank vowed more interest rate hikes.
The rupee was among the better performers for the day, rising 0.2% after the RBI hiked interest rates as expected, but ducked market expectations for a potential pause to its current rate hike cycle.
The central bank still posited a strong economic outlook for the Indian economy, and forecast that inflation will trend lower in the coming months, albeit at a slower pace.
Broader Asian currencies kept to a tight range as recent comments from the Fed’s Powell painted a mixed picture for monetary policy. While the Fed Chair noted that the U.S. economy was certainly experiencing disinflation, he also warned that strength in the jobs market and stubborn inflation could invite more interest rate hikes by the central bank.
While the dollar retreated after his comments, traders still retained a mixed outlook on U.S. monetary policy, especially after stronger-than-expected payrolls data rattled markets last week.
The dollar index and dollar index futures fell 0.1% each on Wednesday.
Other Fed speakers this week also highlighted the strong payrolls figure, and said that more interest rate hikes were needed in the coming months. The prospect of higher U.S. interest rates bodes poorly for Asian markets, as the gap between risky and low-risk yields narrows.
Tighter U.S. liquidity conditions also weigh on foreign capital inflows into the region.
Broader Asian currencies moved little. The Japanese yen fell 0.1% as data showed that the country’s current account surplus fell sharply in December, amid an increasing trade deficit and a weak currency.
The reading raised concerns over slowing growth in the Japanese economy, which is struggling with high inflation and waning overseas demand for exports.
The Chinese yuan rose 0.2% to the dollar, but stuck to a tight trading range seen this week as markets awaited consumer price index inflation data for January, due on Friday. The reading is expected to shed more light on an economic recovery in the country, after it lifted most anti-COVID measures earlier this year.