Currencies across Asia are set for a beating, buffeted by a combination of the G3 central banks, a stronger U.S. dollar and newly volatile Chinese yuan, HSBC said.
"It will be slim pickings in terms of which Asian currencies to like next year. Even the yuan will be predisposed to bouts of higher volatility, which could further upset the region's currencies," HSBC said in a note Thursday. "While we had expected most Asian currencies to trade on the back foot against the U.S. dollar, some are now even starting to underperform the euro."
Many of Asia's currencies have had a tough week since the Bank of Japan (BOJ) announced a fresh batch of stimulus, with the Singapore dollar shedding 1.5 percent against the U.S. dollar, the Thai baht losing 1.1 percent, the Malaysian ringgit dropping 2.2 percent and Indonesia's rupiah slipping 0.7 percent.
Not just the Fed
Currencies with sound external balances, such as the yuan, Korean won, Taiwan dollar and Singapore dollar, were expected to hold up better against the Federal Reserve's tapering of its asset purchases this year, HSBC said.
But it added, "It has become steadily clearer that Asian currencies are held hostage to more than just the Fed. The ECB (European Central Bank) has become increasingly important and suddenly so too has the Bank of Japan."
ECB President Mario Draghi this week indicated the central bank may take further aggressive stimulus measures, with many analysts expecting a quantitative easing program, including bond-buying, is in the works. The ECB is already buying asset-backed securities.
Draghi's comments followed the Bank of Japan's surprise move last Friday to expand an already large stimulus program by increasing asset purchases. It plans to increase purchases of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) to 80 trillion yen annually from the current 50 trillion yen as well as tripling purchases of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to 3 trillion yen and tripling Japanese real-estate investment trust (REIT) purchases to 90 billion yen.
"This muddies the picture as to which Asian currencies should outperform," HSBC said. "It only fuels a stronger U.S. dollar and even those Asian currencies with sound external balances (the Korean won, the Singapore dollar and the Taiwan dollar) cannot ride out the storm. It is all proving to be a nasty combination for many Asian currencies."
Furthermore, with inflation falling and growth slowing across the region, many policy makers will be less inclined to step in to curb currency weakness, HSBC said.
Will the yuan stand out?
The yuan will be the "elephant in the room," HSBC said.
"So far the redback has been resilient and it continues to be our preferred currency to outperform in the region, on account of prudent policy, strong underlying inflows, high yields and an ongoing reform and internationalization story," it said. But it noted that authorities are set on creating more "two-way" volatility.
"If that starts to happen in an environment when other Asian currencies are already under pressure, as they are now, then it will only upset the apple cart further," it said.
Others also expect Asia's currencies face significant headwinds.
"We remain tactically bullish on global emerging markets," Societe Generale said in a note Thursday. But it added, "In the absence of global growth signals, there is little support for emerging market foreign-exchange exposure from a fundamental perspective, however, especially when one factors in the easing bias of many EM central banks."
But Societe Generale expects Asian currencies will be more resilient to U.S. dollar strength compared with other regions.
"A persistently weaker Japanese yen could act as drag on regional currency performance, but aside from the Korean won, the Malaysian ringgit, and the Singapore dollar (the worst performers since the surprise BOJ easing) the direct impact should be minimal," it said.
In a separate note, Societe Generale noted it doesn't expect significant inflows into emerging Asia from asset-allocation changes by Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF). It estimates as much as $14 billion could head to the region based on the fund's equity and bond index benchmarks, but that's dwarfed by the $318 billion that flowed into emerging Asia excluding Hong Kong and Singapore over the past two years.
(Reuters) - Honda Motor Co, facing a U.S. safety probe, strengthened its recall of U.S. cars to replace potentially defective Takata Corp air bags linked to several deaths.
Japan's third-biggest carmaker said late on Thursday it was adding to its recall an undisclosed number of cars from model years 2001-2006 that were sold or registered in humid areas where the air bag inflators are thought to be most vulnerable to rupture.
Honda said "it is not aware of any claimed injuries or fatalities that have been confirmed" related to the issue. More than 17 million cars by 10 manufacturers have been recalled worldwide over Takata air bags, which can rupture and send metal shards into the passenger compartment.
The action, upgrading Honda's "safety campaign" to a formal recall, comes a day after U.S. safety regulators, for the second time this week, ordered Honda to provide information under oath about its air bags.
Honda's latest move affects some cars from three previous recalls, including nearly 1 million cars in June and 560,000 cars in April 2013. Honda did not provide a precise total. U.S. dealers will replace the passenger-side air bag inflator, the company said.
At least four deaths, all involving Honda cars, and more than a dozen injuries have been linked to the defect.
Honda is Takata's biggest customer, and the two companies have deep historic ties. Both companies say they are cooperating with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its investigations.
Honda has recalled nearly 7.6 million cars in the United States since 2008 because of the defective inflators and more than 9.5 million cars globally. Total U.S. recalls over air bags are more than 11 million.
Takata ordered its technicians to destroy results of tests on some of its air bags after finding cracks in air bag inflators, the New York Times said on Friday.
Models in Honda's latest recall include the 2003-05 Honda Accord, 2001-05 Civic, 2002-05 CR-V, 2003-04 Element, 2002-04 Odyssey, 2003-05 Pilot, 2006 Ridgeline, 2003-05 Acura MDX and 2005 Acura RL.
Honda said the cars were sold or registered in high-humidity states or territories, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.