The Indonesian rupiah hit its highest in nearly two months on Friday and was eyeing its best weekly gain since early May, boosted by improving market sentiment on hopes the Omicron coronavirus variant won’t damage the economy too much.
Most other Asian emerging currencies clung to narrow ranges against the dollar, while equities were largely mixed in thin trading on Christmas Eve.
Global markets, including major indexes on Wall Street, notched modest gains, with the S&P 500 (.SPX) closing at a record high overnight on signs that Omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalisation.
Vaccine makers AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) and Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) said their shots protected against Omicron, and data indicated both Merck’s (MRK.N) and Pfiser’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 anti-viral pills are effective against the variant, providing another glimmer of hope to the markets.
That put pressure on the dollar, which slipped marginally against a basket of currencies. The US dollar index was flat at 96.062, lingering near its one-week low.
Analysts at Mizuho Bank termed it as a “Santa pause” which seemed to be more a consequence of heightened uncertainty amid conflicting economic risks and policy signals, than a “risk-on” holiday-cheer rally as more clarity is needed on the Omicron variant. In Asia, the rupiah, one of the best performing currencies in the region, appreciated 0.5 percent to 14,170 per dollar, its highest since November 1 and was on track to gain more than 1 percent for the week.
Bank Indonesia’s governor saw Indonesian bonds, one of the highest yielding in Southeast Asia, rising by 50 basis points (bps) in the third quarter of next year as US Treasury yields are expected to rise by between 50 to 75 bps due to policy tightening there.
Indonesia’s 10-year benchmark yields slipped for a fourth straight day to 6.385%, their lowest in a week, as investor inflow increased on brighter prospects for the economy, thus benefiting the currency.
Among other regional units, South Korea’s won appreciated 0.2 percent for its third straight day of gains, but was eyeing a weekly loss owing to heavy declines earlier in the week. The Philippine peso and Malaysian ringgit were largely unchanged.
Equities in Singapore (.STI) finished 0.3 percent higher on a partial trading day, while South Korea’s KOSPI (.KS11) and the Indonesian benchmark (.JKSE) logged modest gains.
China’s benchmark stock index (.SSEC) declined 0.8 percent and bluechips (.CSI300) slipped 0.7 percent a day after rising coronavirus infections in the northwestern city of Xi’an resulted in a lockdown of its 13 million residents.
Elsewhere, equities in the Philippines (.PSI) shed 0.8 percent after advancing nearly 2 percent in the prior session, while shares in Malaysia (.KLSE) and Thailand (.SETI) edged lower as trading volumes remained thin ahead of the Christmas weekend.
** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields ease to 6.385%, their fourth straight session of losses
** Thai GDP growth of 4 percent still possible next year despite Omicron FinMin
** India’s crude imports hit 10-month peak as refiners bank on strong demand