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Emerging currencies up as oil rally, China trade boost optimism

[TOKYO] Commodity-linked currencies rose Wednesday on the back of a surge in oil prices with upbeat Chinese trade data also boosting sentiment, while the safe-haven yen slipped off 17-month highs against the dollar.

News of a deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to limit oil output lifted crude prices to their highest this year, as it offered hope producer nations would address a global glut that saw rates plunge 75 per cent from mid-2014 through February.

Energy-linked units were well up against the dollar. The Malaysian ringgit and Australian dollar each climbed 0.5 per cent and the Canadian dollar rallied 0.8 per cent.

Major players from inside and outside the Opec producers club are due to meet in the Qatari capital Doha on Sunday to discuss the crude crisis.

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On Wednesday, official figures showed China's exports broke an eight-month streak of declines to post a strong increase in March, indicating a possible turnaround in the world's number two economy. The data follow upbeat inflation figures Monday and last week's surprise jump in a gauge of March factory activity.

The positive results gave traders the confidence to shift into higher-yielding, riskier, assets and away from traditionally safe bets such as the yen.

Among other emerging market currencies the South Korean won was up 0.3 per cent, while Indonesia's rupiah and the Thai baht both added 0.1 per cent.

And the greenback was up at 108.87 yen from 108.57 yen in New York. The euro also ticked up to 123.77 yen from 123.62 yen, while it slipped to US$1.1369 against US$1.1386.

The yen, which by Monday had lost five per cent this month, has retreated in the past two days after officials - including Finance Minister Taro Aso - reiterated that they could intervene in currency markets to prevent the unit from strengthening too much.

The dollar's recovery "is probably consolidation after all of the weakness that we've had", Charles St-Arnaud, a senior economist at Nomura, told Bloomberg News.

"We're reaching levels that are already quite low, and we continue to have discussion from Japanese officials reminding that it could still intervene at some point, reminding the market that it would rather have dollar-yen higher than where it is."

AFP

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