EM ASIA FX-Asian currencies gain on Fed rate cut bets

By Nikhil Nainan

* BoJ, Fed, RBA stand ready to ease policies if necessary * China factory activity in Feb seen to be bottom - analyst * Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser (Adds text, updates prices) By Nikhil Nainan March 2 (Reuters) - Most Asian currencies firmed on Monday as hopes grew for a coordinated monetary policy response by major central banks to tackle the economic impact from the rapid spread of coronavirus, sending investors in the direction of emerging assets. Reminiscent of the 2008 global financial crisis, central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan chimed in with assurances that they would take action to support economies if necessary. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Friday the central bank will "act as appropriate", and investors are pricing in a 0.25 percentage point cut at its next scheduled meeting on March 17-18. The dollar was 0.2% weaker. Earlier, money had poured into U.S. Treasuries, sending the implied yield on U.S. 10-Year Treasury futures below 1% for the first time though it has since recovered. The euro was up 0.2%, while the yen last stood 0.2% weaker. Offering the first glimpse into the impact of the virus outbreak in China, factory activity contracted at the fastest pace on record last month. China's yuan, however, gained 0.3%, with some market participants saying the contraction was unlikely to get worse as production and supply slowly get back to normal. "Unlike a demand-driven shock during the global financial crisis, when the market was unsure about the trajectory of the recovery, it is almost certain that February will mark the bottom for this year," OCBC said in a note, citing easing restrictions on supply-side factors. With markets now looking to central banks for a response, Julian Wee, an investment strategist at Credit Suisse, said lower risk aversion was seeing long positions on the dollar reduce. "Ultimately, it will have to be an ebbing of the threat from Covid-19 that will provide an enduring floor for EM FX and Asia FX in particular," Wee said. The South Korean won strengthened 1.3% to its highest level against the dollar in nearly two weeks. A private survey showed factory activity shrank faster in February, as export orders contracted at the quickest pace in more than six years. Indonesia's rupiah fell 0.5% against the dollar, after posting its biggest weekly loss since 2008 amid foreign money outflows. The central bank said it was adopting "triple intervention" - its term for operations in the domestic non-deliverable forward, spot foreign exchange and bond markets, while the head of the Financial Services Authority urged investors to remain calm amid the outflows. Yields on Indonesia's 10-year bonds ticked higher to 7.047% from 6.966% at the open. Malaysia's ringgit advanced 0.3%, with market participants keeping a close watch on political developments as Mahathir Mohamad promised to seek a vote in parliament to challenge Muhyiddin Yassin's assent to prime minister on Sunday. The Thai baht strengthened 0.7%, while the Philippine peso was up 0.3%. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR AS AT 0445 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 108.060 108.07 +0.01 Sing dlr 1.391 1.3929 +0.17 Taiwan dlr 30.092 30.330 +0.79 Korean won 1198.200 1213.7 +1.29 Baht 31.320 31.54 +0.70 Peso 50.830 50.96 +0.26 Rupiah 14415.000 14340 -0.52 Rupee 72.255 72.22 -0.05 Ringgit 4.200 4.211 +0.26 Yuan 6.971 6.9910 +0.29 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 108.060 108.61 +0.51 Sing dlr 1.391 1.3444 -3.32 Taiwan dlr 30.092 30.106 +0.05 Korean won 1198.200 1156.40 -3.49 Baht 31.320 29.91 -4.50 Peso 50.830 50.65 -0.35 Rupiah 14415.000 13880 -3.71 Rupee 72.255 71.38 -1.21 Ringgit 4.200 4.0890 -2.64 Yuan 6.971 6.9632 -0.11 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)