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Tuesday September 19, 2006 - 20:38:45 GMT
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FOREX-Thai baht clobbered by coup attempt, yen keeps gains

FOREX-Thai baht clobbered by coup attempt, yen keeps gains
Tue Sep 19, 2006 3:44pm ET144

(Updates prices, adds comments)

By Amanda Cooper and Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Sept 19 (Reuters) - The Thai baht staged its largest one-day fall in three years on Tuesday after the Thai army took control of Bangkok and ousted the prime minister, sparking a broad decline in a number of Asian currencies.

The Japanese yen retained most of the day's gains against the euro after a European official said overnight that markets had not yet digested policy-makers' comments at the weekend G7 meeting that the yen should rise against the euro.

But the Japanese currency eased around half a yen from session highs against the dollar after the news from Thailand, tracking a sharp decline in the baht.

Some strategists viewed the move as a simple knee-jerk reaction, as the more-liquid Japanese currency sometimes trades as a proxy for less flexible Asian currencies.

Developments in Thailand overshadowed U.S. data earlier that showed a surprisingly large fall in housing starts and the rate of wholesale inflation that weighed on the dollar.

"The yen was swept up in by a bit of guilt by association. It's the most liquid Asian currency, and clearly the coup did halt the negative momentum in dollar-yen, which fell sharply after the inflation and housing numbers," said Paresh Uphadyaya, currency analyst at Putnam Investments in Boston.

The dollar was last at 117.60 yen , off 0.3 percent on the day but up from 117.05 before the news of the Thai emergency.

Emerging Asian currencies were hit harder. Against the Thai baht , the dollar rose to 37.78 baht, up from 37.305 and up more than 1.3 percent on the day in the largest daily rise since October 2003.

Against the Korean won , the dollar was up by nearly 0.5 percent at 951.60 won, and against the Philippine peso, the dollar was up 0.1 percent at 50.030 pesos. The dollar rose 0.3 percent to 1.5908 Singapore dollars .

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was in New York to speak at the United Nations, declared a "severe state of emergency" in a broadcast on Thai television.

Looking ahead, the market will watch to see if the Thai crisis prompts investors to abandon other risky emerging market trades.

The dollar would be the main beneficiary in such a scenario, said Divyang Shah, strategist at IDEAGLobal in London, as it is "not only a high-yielder but is also an attractive safe haven."

However, other market participants said solid economic fundamentals in Thailand and other emerging Asian markets make a mass rush for the door unlikely.

"There's been an immediate reaction, and people will move to the sidelines to see how it all unfolds, but what we'll see will probably be a short-term disruption," said Putnam Investments' Uphadyaya.


Elsewhere, weak economic data undermined the euro fairly broadly as well, after Germany's key ZEW survey on investor sentiment hit an eight-year low in September.

"We're kind of being batted by downside surprises in Europe and downside surprises in the U.S.," said Lara Rhame, senior currency strategist at Credit Suisse in New York.

The euro was last at $1.2675, down about 0.2 percent Against the yen , the euro pared some of its losses but was still down 0.5 percent at 149.06 yen.

Markets are gearing up for the European Central Bank to hike interest rates again this year, while the Federal Reserve is expected to signal at its meeting on Wednesday that it will keep rates at 5.25 percent for the rest of the year.

Earlier, data showing a 6 percent decline in U.S. housing starts and a 0.4 percent drop in core producer prices, which strip out energy and food costs, bolstered that view.

"It's certainly all consistent with the idea that the Fed is staying on hold," said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut.

(Additional reporting by David McMahon and Kevin Plumberg)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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