Peso leads weekly drop in Asia

SINGAPORE - The Philippine peso led a weekly decline in Asian currencies as tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East and improving US data spurred dollar demand.

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The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index, which tracks the region's 10 most-active currencies excluding the yen, fell 0.1% in the past five days, a second weekly decline. The peso dropped 0.8% from Aug 1 to 44.13 per dollar, India's rupee declined 0.3% to 61.3675, while China's yuan advanced 0.4% to 6.1564.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this week countered US and European sanctions over a pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine with a ban on the import of a range of food products, while US President Barack Obama authorised air strikes in Iraq on Friday. Reports this week showed US service industries grew at the fastest pace since 2005 and the trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in June.

"Asian currencies weakened this week due to an overall sense of risk aversion in global markets due to escalating tensions in Ukraine and as solid US data revived fears over an early rate hike" by the Federal Reserve, said Dariusz Kowalczyk, a Credit Agricole CIB strategist in Hong Kong.

The peso fell 0.1% on Friday and touched a three-month low of 44.278 per dollar after the World Bank on Friday cut its growth forecasts for the Philippines for 2014 and 2015 to 6.4% and 6.7%, respectively, from previous estimates of 6.6% and 6.9%, citing weak spending and tighter monetary policy.

Stock outflows

Global funds sold $59 million more Philippine stocks than they bought this week and offloaded $436 million of Taiwanese equities, according to exchange data.

The yuan in Shanghai strengthened 0.08% on Friday as official data showed China's exports grew for a fourth straight month and the trade surplus widened to a record. Overseas shipments increased 14.5% from a year earlier in July, the Beijing-based customs administration said, compared with the median projection of 7% in a Bloomberg survey. Imports dropped 1.6%, leaving an excess of $47.3 billion.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's won gained 0.1% this week to 1,036.45 in Seoul, Malaysia's ringgit strengthened 0.1% to 3.2078. Taiwan's dollar and Vietnam's dong were steady at T$30.066 and 21,215, respectively. Indonesia's rupiah fell 1.8% to 11,788 from July 25. Financial markets in Jakarta were closed last week for the Eid holiday.

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