By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com — Most Asian currencies advanced against the dollar on Monday, cheered largely by the prospect of smaller interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, while speculation over another hawkish move by the Bank of Japan pushed the yen to an over seven-month peak.
The yen rose 0.4% to 127.32 against the dollar, reaching its highest level since late-May ahead of a BOJ policy meeting later this week. The currency has been on a tear since the central bank unexpectedly struck a hawkish tone during its December meeting by widening the band within which it allows the yields on its benchmark government bonds to trade.
Yields on Japanese 10-year bonds rose above the 0.5% upper end set by the BOJ for a second consecutive day.
Markets are now positioning for similar moves from the BOJ this week, given that inflation in the country is trending at 40-year highs. Producer price index inflation data on Monday showed that factory gate prices grew more than expected in December, while November’s reading was also revised higher.
Still, the BOJ is expected to keep interest rates unchanged at ultra-low levels.
Strength in the yen weighed heavily on the dollar index and dollar index futures, which fell about 0.3% each to a new seven-month low. The greenback was battered in recent weeks by signs of easing U.S. inflation, which is broadly expected to push the Fed into slowing its pace of interest rate hikes.
Asian currencies rallied on the prospect of such a scenario, given that it heralds easing pressure from high U.S. yields after a sharp increase in interest rates through 2022.
Risk-heavy units in Southeast Asia were the best performers for the day, with the Indonesian rupiah and the Philippine peso adding 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively.
The Australian dollar rose 0.5% and cleared the 0.7 level against the dollar for the first time in five months, as high inflation in the country also spurred bets that the Reserve Bank will continue to hike interest rates this year.
The Chinese yuan rose 0.1% as the People’s Bank of China kept its medium-term lending rate unchanged. But the central bank also injected more liquidity into markets to shore up economic growth, as the country grapples with its worst yet COVID-19 outbreak.
Still, markets are positioning for an eventual economic recovery in the country after it began relaxing most anti-COVID restrictions in December.