International Markets: Asia - At last, the clouds are lifted
Sunday 07 December 1997
But even as stocks rallied - Korea's benchmark index surged almost 9 per cent on Friday - the Indonesian rupiah and Malaysian ringgit fell to record lows.
"It's not about currencies, it's not about Malaysia's trade figures; it's the whole region against the dollar, and every Tom, Dick and Harry is selling Asia to buy dollars," said Chia Woon Khien, head of Asian economic research at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken in Singapore.
Last month, US money managers withdrew almost $3bn from Asian stock markets on a bet that Asian economies would slow, according to Salomon Brothers Smith Barney. That figure more than offsets the total inflow of funds last year into Asia, where economies are expected to slow next year to their lowest pace in 15 years.
Asian central banks drove up interest rates this year to fend off attacks on their currencies by making local deposits more attractive. Jakarta's three-month Interbank Offer Rate has almost doubled in six months to more than 22 per cent.
Granted, weaker currencies bolster exports by making products cheaper in world markets - good news for export-dependent Taiwan, where the benchmark stock index gained 4.7 per cent this week.
Asia's woes are also forcing governments to open once-shuttered markets. Korea said this week that foreign investors will now be allowed to own as much as 50 per cent of a company's shares, up from just 7 per cent. The announcement, part of the IMF rescue package, spurred Friday's record one-day percentage gain in Korean stocks.
Stocks also rose in Hong Kong, Asia's biggest market outside Japan. The Hang Seng Index rose more than 9 per cent last week. Malaysian stocks also surged after the government vowed to slash spending, shelve public works projects and cut imports to reduce the current account deficit.
Still, few investors are betting that the worst is over. Stock market indices in Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have all lost more than half their value this year.
"It looks like everybody here is going to have a very subdued Christmas," said Gary Greenberg, deputy managing director at Peregrine Asset Management (HK), which manages about $600m in Asian stocks.
Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 Picture of couple posing with beached dolphin 'that later died' causes outrage
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
iJobs Money & Business
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...
£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...