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Strategist who called the Singapore surprise sees more easing

[NEW YORK] Win Thin, who predicted in November that Singapore would need to easy monetary policy, says the central bank will act again after Wednesday's surprise move to slow the pace of the currency's appreciation.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, which uses the exchange rate as its main policy tool, will cut its currency stance to neutral in April when the authority has a scheduled meeting, according to Mr Thin, the global head of emerging-market strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

"A modest appreciation is probably still too tight in this environment when everyone's cutting, the meeting is now three months away, and we could see another move to zero appreciation," Mr Thin said in a phone interview from New York.

"Emerging markets are having trouble getting a bid, and Singapore will be there as well. We're still in the early days of selloff for the Singapore dollar."

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January isn't even over yet and Singapore has become at least the ninth nation to ease policy to combat growing risks of deflation.

Apart from seeking a slower currency appreciation, the MAS also cut the inflation forecast for 2015, predicting prices may fall as much as 0.5 per cent.

The island's dollar has already depreciated 8 per cent in the past six months before Wednesday's one per cent slump to 1.3520 against the US dollar, reaching the weakest since August 2010. The currency could weaken as much as 5 per cent more to 1.42, Mr Thin said.

Mitul Kotecha, head of Asia-Pacific currency strategy at Barclays Plc in Singapore, said the MAS will be on hold in April following Wednesdays's surprise. He had written in a report in October that the monetary authority will need to act after the Bank of Japan expanded its unprecedented monetary stimulus.

"It became more and more untenable to have a such a appreciation bias when you have such disinflationary forces and strong dollar environment in general," Mr Kotecha said by phone on Wednesday.

"If there was a bigger shift in policy, you'd see an even bigger reaction. I imagine they'd want to avoid such a shock in the market."

The central bank guides the local dollar against a basket of currencies within an undisclosed band and adjusts the pace of appreciation or depreciation by changing the slope, width and center of the band. A flatter slope, which is now the central bank's new policy, allows slower appreciation or depreciation over time.