Rupiah gains as Indonesia mulls lifting coal export ban, Singapore stocks jump

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The rupiah led modest gains among emerging Asian peers on Monday as top thermal coal exporter Indonesia considered lifting its export ban on the commodity, while financials drove Singapore shares up by 1%.

Currency markets in Asia fluctuated as liquidity was thinned by a holiday in Japan. Malaysia's ringgit and the Indian rupee firmed 0.2% each, while Singapore and Taiwan's dollars traded flat.

The greenback attempted to recover from Friday's losses after a softer-than-expected jobs report worried investors, though a rate hike by the Federal Reserve in March seemed to have been fully priced in by markets.

"The dollar index is testing support at its 50-day moving average level and looks vulnerable to the downside, which would bode well for Asian currencies," said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at ANZ.

"For the rupiah, the government is reviewing their coal export ban, and if it is lifted at the end of the month, it will be positive for the currency."

The rupiah gained 0.4% after having shed 0.7% last week when Indonesia suspended coal exports on Jan. 1 after the state-owned power utility reported dangerously low inventory levels of the fuel. read more

The government is hoping to reach a decision on resuming coal shipments "in the coming days", authorities said, while officials separately told Reuters that discussions on shipment and logistics issues would resume on Monday. read more

Robust coal exports amid record high prices last year helped Indonesia shore up a hefty trade surplus and boost the rupiah.

Singapore shares (.STI) rose as much as 1.1% to hit a seven-week high, rising for the third straight day, underpinned by gains in banking stocks which tracked their U.S. counterparts.

Inflation worries and the Fed's hawkishness last week prompted buying in shares like banks that usually perform well in a high interest rate environment, while high-growth stocks such as tech were routed.

Similar concerns pushed South Korea's tech heavy bourse (.KS11) down 1% to its lowest since Dec. 2.

The won , however, advanced 0.2% with markets looking out to the Bank of Korea's (BoK) monetary policy meeting on Friday after the central bank hiked rates in November to tamp down inflation that's running above its target.

"Against the current economic backdrop, the BoK will stay on track to hike the base rate at the January policy meeting, or in February at the latest," Standard Chartered analysts wrote, adding that potential virus resurgence remained a risk.

Meanwhile, Philippine shares (.PSI) climbed 2.1% to lead gains in the region, more than recouping last week's 1.6% loss.


** Focus now shifts to U.S. inflation data due on Wednesday and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and governor Lael Brainard speeches this week regarding their nominations at the Fed

** Top gainers on Singapore's STI (.STI): United Overseas Bank Ltd (UOBH.SI), up 3.%, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC.SI), up 1.7%, and DBS Group (DBSM.SI), up ​1.6%

** Indonesian 10-year benchmark yields up 3.9 basis points at 6.461%

** The Thai baht eases 0.1% after the central bank said H1 economic growth could be weaker than forecast on Omicron impact read more

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