How US rate hikes could jolt Asian currencies

The winds of change are blowing through global financial markets, and Asian currencies are bracing for a potential storm. The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, is signalling a series of interest rate hikes in the coming months to combat rising inflation. This seemingly domestic move by the Fed can potentially send shockwaves across the Pacific, impacting Asian economies and currency valuations.

The magnetic effect – Why do investors flock to the USD? 

When the Fed raises interest rates, it’s like raising the interest on a savings account. Suddenly, holding US dollars becomes more attractive for investors. This increased demand for dollars pushes its value up compared to other currencies, including those in Asia. Think of it like a game of tug-of-war: as demand for dollars rises, the other end of the rope (the value of Asian currencies) gets pulled down.

Here’s the kicker: this isn’t just theoretical. A recent Reuters poll suggests a whopping 72% of analysts expect the Fed to raise rates by a significant 50 basis points in May 2024. That’s a big move, and it could significantly impact Asian currency markets.

Numbers don’t lie: The case of Indonesia and Thailand

Some Asian currencies are feeling the heat more than others. The Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and Thai Baht (THB) are prime examples. Investors are taking a bearish stance on these currencies, expecting their value to decline. This pessimism is reflected in the soaring number of short positions on the IDR – a bet by investors that the Rupiah will weaken.

According to Bloomberg, the Indonesian Rupiah has depreciated by over 7% against the USD since the beginning of 2024. This has spurred the Bank of Indonesia (BI) to take action. In a recent statement, BI Governor Perry Warjiyo warned of “potential excessive volatility” and hinted at the possibility of raising interest rates to defend the Rupiah.

Thailand faces a similar situation. Their tourism-reliant economy is struggling, foreign investors are pulling out billions from Thai bonds (a survey by the Bank of Thailand showed a net withdrawal of $2.2 billion in March 2024 alone!), and disagreements between the government and central bank regarding future interest rate cuts add further fuel to the fire.

This data paints a concerning picture: the IDR has depreciated by over 5% against the USD since the beginning of 2024, and analysts predict similar downward trends for the THB.

What investors need to know

The coming months will likely be a rollercoaster ride for Asian currency markets. The exact impact of the Fed’s actions will depend on several factors, including the size and speed of the rate hikes and economic data from the US and Asia.

  • The pace and magnitude of the hikes: A series of aggressive rate increases will likely put more strain on Asian currencies.
  • US economic data: Strong US economic growth could further incentivise investors to flock to the USD.
  • Asian economic data: Robust economic performance in Asia could mitigate some negative impacts of rising US interest rates.

Investors in Asian currencies should stay informed about these developments and consider the following:

  • Hedging strategies: Utilizing financial instruments like currency forwards or options contracts can help mitigate risks associated with currency fluctuations.
  • Diversification: Spreading investments across different asset classes and currencies can help reduce overall portfolio volatility.
  • Long-term perspective: While short-term volatility is likely, strong Asian fundamentals and growth potential could lead to a rebound in Asian currencies over the long term.

By staying vigilant and adaptable, investors can navigate the potential turbulence caused by US interest rate hikes and potentially find opportunities in the Asian currency markets.

Sangita Brahma
Sangita Brahma

Sangita is a commerce graduate from Tezpur University, known for her passion for reading and anime. As a senior editor at, she has honed her skills in writing and editing. Sangita is an avid reader of fiction novels and enjoys exploring new stories. Her email, [email protected], is open to those who wish to connect with her regarding her work or interests.

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