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Asian currencies feel pressure as yuan hits new low

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The won lost more than 0.6% on Monday, while the Malaysian ringgit, Philippine peso and Singapore dollar all traded weaker.

Bengaluru

MOST emerging Asian currencies came under pressure on Tuesday, with the yuan hitting a freshr low as anxiety over the recent escalation in the Sino-US trade war persisted.

Some currencies strengthened, led by the Korean won and Indian rupee, which pared much of their losses on Monday when Asian units, except the baht, were weak.

Sentiment remained shaky even after US President Donald Trump on Monday flagged the possibility of a trade deal with China and said he believed Beijing was sincere in its desire to reach an agreement.

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"It remains to be seen whether or not Trump's comments prove to be green shoots or a false dawn over the prospects for a meaningful US-China trade deal," said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM, a foreign-exchange trader.

"The risk-on sentiment may prove fleeting, given that new and heightened tariffs are set to be imposed on US and Chinese goods by next week," he added.

The yuan plunged to the weakest level since February 2008 this week. There was a brief rebound in early trade following a much stronger-than-expected midpoint set by the central bank.

The onshore spot yuan weakened as much as 0.2 per cent to 7.165 against the dollar.

The drop put pressure on other currencies, with the Malaysian ringgit, Philippine peso and Singapore dollar all trading weaker.

The won and rupee, which both lost more than 0.6 per cent on Monday, were the big gainers.

The won added 0.5 per cent, while the rupee strengthened to as much as 71.710 against the dollar to crawl out of the eight-month trough it hit on Monday.

The yuan's fall came despite the People's Bank of China (PBOC) setting its official yuan midpoint at 7.0810 per dollar, which was weaker than the previous fix but firmer than expected.

The fix was seen as an official attempt to prevent the currency from registering sharper losses.

FXTM's Han Tan said the PBOC is in a tricky spot, having to navigate a fine line tolerating more yuan weakness in order to offset economic headwinds.

The PBOC must ensure it doesn't cede too much ground to yuan bears so as to trigger capital outflows, he said. "Overall, the softer CNY is playing its role as a pressure valve that eases China's economic pressures, hence the yuan is expected to maintain an easing bias over the near-term."

This year, the yuan has shed slightly over 4 per cent and is the region's worst performer after the Korean won. REUTERS