A woman walks past a currency exchange advertisement in Jeju, South Korea, (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Asian Currency Volatility Drops Amid Emerging-Market Tempest

(Bloomberg) -- Don’t be fooled as Asian currency swings seemed to be impervious amid an uptick in volatility in its global emerging-market peers this month.

Cushioned by current-account surpluses across most of the region and by China’s pledge this month of a stable yuan, the average three-month implied volatility for Asian currencies dropped 23 basis points this month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That contrasts with volatility for the wider emerging-market universe, which has climbed 4 basis points amid the twists and turns of the U.S.-China trade fight.

Asian Currency Volatility Drops Amid Emerging-Market Tempest

“Indeed, the calm before the storm,” Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia Pacific at Oanda Corp., said in an email. “We have six weeks to get this trade war ironed out, or local currencies will be in a dangerous world of hurt. But, I don’t think the fallout will be contained to local markets as we could be headed for a complete global meltdown.”

While Asia’s stronger economic fundamentals compared with other developing economies have helped it weather rising U.S. yields and general market volatility better, that doesn’t mean the risk is gone, said Khoon Goh, Singapore-based head of Asia research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

This month’s relative calm is leading to split views on the outlook for emerging-market currencies and stocks, after a rising dollar and the deteriorating trade backdrop drove the assets to their worst quarter since the 2015 China hard-landing scare.

A Bloomberg survey of emerging-market watchers showed the sell-off is expected to continue in the second half of 2018. Still, some strategists and investors, including those from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and BlackRock Inc., are saying cheap prices, rising corporate profits and strong fundamentals will outweigh risks from a trade war.

An increase in volatility from the escalation of trade tensions would be an opportunity to invest as the global economy still has quite decent growth, Christian Nolting, global chief investment officer at Deutsche Bank Wealth Management, said in an interview in Singapore.

“It’s probably digestible so far” as long as we don’t go into a full-blown trade war, Frankfurt-based Nolting said. The company sees opportunities in Asian equities and the region’s dollar bonds, he said.

Markets are now on the lookout for whether the U.S. and China will resume negotiations, and how the Asian nation will retaliate if tensions intensify. U.S. President Trump may impose 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports after public consultations end on Aug. 30. An initial $34 billion of Chinese goods were already slapped with U.S. duties earlier this month.

“Asian FX volatility has been contained, but whether that remains so largely depends on how the U.S.-China trade tensions evolve,” Goh said. “Further escalation will risk an increase in FX volatility, especially if it leads to renewed yuan weakness which will spill over into other Asian currencies.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.