Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters and the 2016-2017 president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. He was the lead Reuters correspondent for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and interviewed the president at the White House in 2015. Jeff has been based in Washington since 2008, when he covered the historic race between Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Jeff started his career in Frankfurt, Germany, where he covered the airline industry before moving to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. He is a Colorado native, proud graduate of Northwestern University and former Fulbright scholar.
Twitter handle: @jeffmason1
* EM FX Asia extend gains as dollar softens * Thai baht touches a 2-month high * Dollar down after Trump raps Fed rate hikes * Indian rupee, S. Korean won sustain gains (Adds text, updates prices) By Ambar Warrick Aug 21 Nearly all emerging Asian currencies firmed on Tuesday, with the Thai baht strengthening the most, as criticism of Federal Reserve rate hikes by U.S. President Donald Trump dented the dollar. Trump said he was "not thrilled" with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for raising interest rates, and that the central bank should help him boost the economy. The dollar's slip came before anticipated talks between the United States and China, which many believe might ease trade disputes. "In the interim, there's not likely to be any trade related negative headlines, and that's why we're seeing the dollar softening," said Chang Wei Liang, FX strategist at Mizuho Bank. "It's probably too early to say that the dollar will be easing dramatically from here but for now it does appear that the news flow is a bit more supportive of an interim retracement." Risk appetites have been lifted ahead of the Sino-U.S. trade negotiations, meaning some Asian currencies saw stronger inflows. The fact that Turkish markets are closed for much of the week also helped stability, after fears of contagion from the lira's collapse caused large sell-offs last week. The Thai baht shot up as much as 0.8 percent against the dollar. The Malaysian ringgit and the Chinese yuan also rose. China and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding on a bilateral currency swap agreement on Monday. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also said he believed China would sympathise with his country's "internal fiscal problems" as he seeks to renegotiate, or possibly cancel, more than $20 billion in Chinese-funded projects. Philippine markets were closed for a holiday, and the peso edged lower in very muted trade. THAI BAHT The Thai baht outperformed, touching a two-month high against the dollar. Thailand's GDP expanded at a slower pace in the second quarter, but the state planning agency kept its economic growth forecast for the year and also raised its exports projection. Chang of Mizuho called the Q2 growth number "pretty good" as a moderation was expected. "Markets are reacting to the sustained growth momentum that we've seen in Q2, and if that carries on to the second half, then its very likely that the Bank of Thailand will be confident enough to begin normalising monetary policy," he added. The central bank governor said on Monday Thailand cannot buck the global policy tightening trend but any interest rate hike will be gradual. He added that the need to continue "very accommodative" monetary policy was lessening, but the timing of a rate hike will be decided by the monetary policy committee. Thailand's benchmark rate has been kept at 1.50 percent since April 2015. The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar as at 0514 GMT. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 110.070 110.06 -0.01 Sing dlr 1.367 1.3687 +0.15 Taiwan dlr 30.702 30.760 +0.19 Korean won 1118.100 1123.1 +0.45 Baht 32.760 33.01 +0.76 Peso 53.307 53.3 -0.01 Rupiah 14575.000 14585 +0.07 Rupee 69.550 69.82 +0.39 Ringgit 4.092 4.099 +0.17 Yuan 6.841 6.8640 +0.34 Change so far in 2018 Currency Latest bid End 2017 Pct Move Japan yen 110.070 112.67 +2.36 Sing dlr 1.367 1.3373 -2.14 Taiwan dlr 30.702 29.848 -2.78 Korean won 1118.100 1070.50 -4.26 Baht 32.760 32.58 -0.55 Peso 53.307 49.93 -6.34 Rupiah 14575.000 13565 -6.93 Rupee 69.550 63.87 -8.17 Ringgit 4.092 4.0440 -1.17 Yuan 6.841 6.5069 -4.88 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru)
Most Asian currencies started the week on a high note after news of impending lower-level trade talks between the United States and China returned risk appetite to regional markets.
* Vietnam shares sole gainers for the week * Singapore sheds early gains, ends slightly lower By Ambar Warrick Aug 17 Most Southeast Asian stock markets ended higher on Friday after China and the United States agreed to hold their first trade talks since June later this month and the Turkish lira extended its recovery from a record low hit earlier this week. A Chinese delegation led by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen will meet U.S. representatives, China's Ministry of Commerce said, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that talks will take place in Washington on Aug. 21 and 22. This has sparked hopes that they might resolve an escalating tariff war that threatens to engulf all trade between the world's top two economies. They are due to slap tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods on Aug. 23 in addition to levies that took effect on July 6. The lira has rebounded more than 20 percent from its record low on Monday. The currency's collapse, prompted partly by heightened trade tensions between Turkey and the United States, had sparked an investor exodus from emerging markets and led to deep losses. In Southeast Asia, Philippine shares rose 0.9 percent, led by real estate and financial stocks, but fell 2.8 percent for the week. Real estate conglomerate Ayala Land climbed 2.7 percent on Friday, while financial counterpart Ayala Corp gained 6.7 percent. The Philippine central bank said it was optimistic about inflation and that it was expected to ease after peaking either in August or September. Inflation had spiked to a more than five-year high in July, which bodes poorly for price stability as well as the peso. Malaysian shares were unfazed by weaker-than-expected second-quarter economic growth data and a cut in full-year GDP forecast. They closed about 0.4 percent higher with telcos and industrial stocks leading the gains. Meanwhile, the central bank relaxed currency conversion rules for exporters and said it would allow companies more flexibility for hedging of foreign currency obligations. The country is one of the largest exporters of palm oil in the world. Malaysian stocks fell 1.2 percent this week. Vietnam stocks gained 0.5 percent on Friday and managed to eke out a small gain for the week, making them the sole weekly gainers in Southeast Asia. Singapore stocks gave up early gains to end flat, as lagging industrials negated gains across financial and consumer discretionary stocks. "Trading volumes in the local market are really low, and I think that's causing some volatility... Overall there's still a risk-off sentiment in the market and that's been exacerbated by lower volumes," said Joel Ng, an analyst with KGI Securities. Indonesian markets were closed for a public holiday. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3209.44 3211.93 -0.08 Bangkok 1690.04 1680.96 0.54 Manila 7583.52 7517.36 0.88 Kuala Lumpur 1783.47 1777.27 0.35 Ho Chi Minh 968.88 964.28 0.48 Change on year Market Current End 2017 Pct Move Singapore 3209.44 3402.92 -5.69 Bangkok 1690.04 1753.71 -3.63 Manila 7583.52 8558.42 -11.39 Kuala Lumpur 1783.47 1796.81 -0.74 Ho Chi Minh 968.88 984.24 -1.56 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
* Vietnam set to be only weekly gainer in Southeast Asia * Asian shares ex-Japan recover from 1-yr low By Ambar Warrick Aug 17 Southeast Asian stock markets tracked Asian shares higher on Friday as the possibility of Sino-U.S. trade negotiations provided some relief after a week plagued by anxiety over the global economic health. Asian shares outside Japan recovered from a one-year low after news late Thursday that a Chinese delegation will meet U.S. representatives later this month, sparking hopes that they might resolve an escalating trade war between the countries. A sustained recovery in the Turkish Lira also aided sentiment. The currency had rebounded nearly 20 percent by Thursday from a record low hit early in the week. The currency's collapse, prompted partly by heightened trade tensions between Turkey and the United States, had sparked an investor exodus from emerging markets and led to deep losses throughout most part of the week. "Market has stabilised amid renewed hopes of easing trade tensions as the U.S. and China is set to resume trade talks later this month, though some market participants still hold reservation as the negotiation will only be attended by low-level government officials and the gap on various issues from intellectual property rights to industrial policies between both sides remains wide," Mizuho said in a note. Malaysian shares rose ahead of second-quarter GDP data due later in the day. The economic growth is likely to have cooled 5.2 percent in the second quarter, a Reuters poll showed. Malaysian stocks were down 1.2 percent for the week and were set to snap five consecutive weekly gains. Philippine shares firmed about 1 percent, having fallen in five out of the six previous sessions. Financial conglomerate Ayala Corp gained 2.5 percent, while property developer SM Prime Holdings firmed 2.5 percent. The index was on track to lose 2.6 percent for the week. Indonesian markets were closed for a public holiday. Jakarta composite index had lost nearly 5 percent over its four trading sessions this week. Meanwhile, Vietnam stocks climbed, on course to be the only weekly gainers in the region. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0311 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3230.6 3211.93 0.58 Bangkok 1693.39 1680.96 0.74 Manila 7597.72 7517.36 1.07 Kuala Lumpur 1783.23 1777.27 0.34 Ho Chi Minh 969.93 964.28 0.59 Change on year Market Current End 2017 Pct Move Singapore 3230.6 3402.92 -5.06 Bangkok 1693.39 1753.71 -3.44 Manila 7597.72 8558.42 -11.23 Kuala Lumpur 1783.23 1796.81 -0.76 Ho Chi Minh 969.93 984.24 -1.45 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)
* Singapore posts over 1-month closing low * Thailand, Vietnam shares inch higher By Ambar Warrick Aug 16 Most Southeast Asian stock markets tracked broader Asia to end lower on Thursday, as Turkey's currency woes and concerns of slowing economic growth in China weighed on investor risk appetite. However, news that Beijing will hold trade talks with Washington late this month helped markets cut some losses. A Chinese delegation led by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen will meet with U.S. representatives led by Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs David Malpass, the Ministry of Commerce said. But it is unclear whether it will take place before or after Aug. 23, when Washington is due to activate additional tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese goods. Asian shares saw sustained sell-offs over the past few sessions, driven by a slew of lukewarm Chinese economic data. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell to a one-year low on Thursday, having plunged about 4 percent since last week. Investors also remained wary of a shock sell-off in emerging-market currencies, as seen in Turkey's lira, after trade tensions flared between Ankara and Washington. "The trade war between the U.S. and Turkey, which resulted in a free-fall of the Turkish lira, has affected emerging markets, especially Asia," said Manny Cruz, an analyst at Asiasec Equities. In Southeast Asia, Singapore stocks closed at a more than one-month low, dragged by financials. The city-state's top lenders led the decline, with Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd and DBS Group Holdings Ltd shedding 1.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. Singaporean banks reported record profits last year but their prospects have been clouded this year by curbs on property investment imposed in July and a slowdown in economic growth due to international trade tensions. Indonesian shares declined for a third session in four, with financials and telecom stocks weighing the most. They gained in the previous session after Bank Indonesia hiked its key interest rate for the fourth time since mid-May. The central bank flagged slowing economic growth in 2018, stemming mainly from weakening economic fundamentals. "Weakening growth will continue to drag market sentiment, and it should compel fund managers and foreign investors to continue selling," Cruz said. Bank Negara Indonesia ended 4.1 percent lower, while Telekomunikasi Indonesia shed 2.3 percent. An index of the country's 45 most liquid stocks ended 0.8 percent lower. Malaysian shares fell, dragged by telecom and utility stocks, ahead of second-quarter GDP data on Friday. The economic growth pace likely slowed again in the second quarter of 2018, a Reuters poll showed. Meanwhile, Thai and Vietnam stocks gained slightly. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3211.93 3234.12 -0.69 Bangkok 1680.96 1676.29 0.28 Manila 7517.36 7540.92 -0.31 Jakarta 5783.798 5816.59 -0.56 Kuala Lumpur 1777.27 1785.94 -0.49 Ho Chi Minh 964.28 961.37 0.30 Change on year Market Current End 2017 Pct Move Singapore 3211.93 3402.92 -5.61 Bangkok 1680.96 1753.71 -4.15 Manila 7517.36 8558.42 -12.16 Jakarta 5783.798 6355.654 -9.00 Kuala Lumpur 1777.27 1796.81 -1.09 Ho Chi Minh 964.28 984.24 -2.03 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
* Singapore extends losses into 5th straight session * Indonesia resumes fall after previous session's gains By Ambar Warrick Aug 16 Southeast Asian stocks fell on Thursday, pressured by an extending rout in Asian equities as Turkey's currency woes and protectionist U.S. trade policies sparked jitters over the global economic health. Worries of a growth slowdown in China also contributed to losses across global markets, after a slew of soft Chinese economic data out earlier this week. Wall Street fell overnight in heavy trading as technology and retail stocks tumbled on risk aversion after disappointing earnings. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell to a one-year low on Thursday, having plunged about 4 percent since last week. The lira had plunged to an all-time low at the start of the week as tensions between Ankara and Washington flared amid worries over President Tayyip Erdogan's economic policies. "The trade war between the U.S. and Turkey, which resulted in a free-fall of the Turkish lira, has affected emerging markets, especially Asia," said Manny Cruz, an analyst at Asiasec Equities. Singapore shares fell 0.5 percent to a more than one-month low, set to extend losses into a fifth straight session. Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd and United Overseas Bank Ltd dropping about 1 percent each. Indonesian shares slipped after closing higher on Wednesday, when the central bank raised its benchmark interest rate. However, Bank Indonesia also flagged weaker economic growth for the year. "Weakening growth will continue to drag market sentiment, and it should compel fund managers and foreign investors to continue selling," Cruz said. The index of the country's 45 most liquid stocks slipped 0.3 percent. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0343 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3218.57 3234.12 -0.48 Bangkok 1666.41 1676.29 -0.59 Manila 7507.22 7540.92 -0.45 Jakarta 5804.555 5816.59 -0.21 Kuala Lumpur 1778.27 1785.94 -0.43 Ho Chi Minh 952.91 961.37 -0.88 Change on year Market Current End 2017 Pct Move Singapore 3218.57 3402.92 -5.42 Bangkok 1666.41 1753.71 -4.98 Manila 7507.22 8558.42 -12.28 Jakarta 5804.555 6355.654 -8.67 Kuala Lumpur 1778.27 1796.81 -1.03 Ho Chi Minh 952.91 984.24 -3.18 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)
* Indonesia snaps two straight sessions of declines * Vietnam falls 1.7 pct, the most since early July By Ambar Warrick Aug 15 Indonesian shares bounced back on Wednesday after the central bank raised rates for the fourth time since mid-May to defend the rupiah, while Thai and Vietnam stocks fell in line with broader Asia. The key Jakarta stock index fell as much as 1.4 percent before reversing course to end 0.8 percent higher after two straight sessions of sharp falls. Bank Indonesia raised its 7-day reverse repurchase rate by 25 basis points to 5.50 percent, as expected by six of 19 economists in a Reuters poll. The rupiah has lost more than 7 percent this year, making it one of the worst performing Asian currencies, amid concerns about economic growth. Weak fundamentals have also led to capital outflows, which have weighed on the stock market. The country posted a wider-than-expected trade deficit in July. Telecom and energy stocks led the gains. Telekomunikasi Indonesia climbed 2.4 percent, while coal miner Bayan Resources rose 5.3 percent. Consumer stocks also gained after the government said it would impose import tariffs on consumer goods. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid more than 1 percent to its lowest since August 2017, as concerns about Turkey's financial crisis weighed on investor appetite even though the lira moved away from an all-time low. The lira - which plummeted to a record 7.24 to the dollar on Monday, rattling global markets - was about 2.9 percent stronger at 6.16 after rebounding more than 8 percent overnight. Vietnam shares fell 1.7 percent, the biggest single-day fall in more than one month. Financials and utilities were the biggest losers. Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Viet Nam declined 3.5 percent, while Petrovietnam Gas Joint Stock Corp shed over 6 percent. Thailand stocks fell for a second straight session and closed more than 1 percent lower with energy stocks leading the decline after oil prices softened. PTT Pcl and PTT Exploration and Production Pcl were the biggest drags on the benchmark index. Oil prices were weighed down by gloomier global economic outlook, as well as reports of rising U.S. crude inventories. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3234.12 3242.87 -0.27 Bangkok 1676.29 1695.35 -1.12 Manila 7540.92 7527.78 0.17 Jakarta 5816.59 5769.873 0.81 Kuala Lumpur 1785.94 1783.78 0.12 Ho Chi Minh 961.37 978.27 -1.73 Change on year Market Current End 2017 Pct Move Singapore 3234.12 3402.92 -4.96 Bangkok 1676.29 1753.71 -4.41 Manila 7540.92 8558.42 -11.89 Jakarta 5816.59 6355.654 -8.48 Kuala Lumpur 1785.94 1796.81 -0.60 Ho Chi Minh 961.37 984.24 -2.32 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
* Indonesia slips ahead of cbank rate review * Thailand led lower by energy stocks By Ambar Warrick Aug 15 Most Southeast Asian stock markets traded in tight ranges on Wednesday as the fallout from Turkey's currency crisis kept risk appetite sour, with Thai and Indonesian shares extending their deep losses from previous sessions. Southeast Asian stocks and currencies had been hit by heavy selling over as the collapse of the Turkish lira stoked fears that other emerging markets could be vulnerable to shocks from foreign capital outflows. Asian shares showed no signs of recovery, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipping about 0.7 percent on Wednesday. The lira's plunge sent the Indonesian rupiah to a near three-year low, with investors treading cautiously as Bank Indonesia is set to reach a decision on its key interest rate later in the day. Indonesian shares slipped, set to extend a 5 percent plunge over the last two sessions. The central bank is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged despite a plunge in the rupiah, a Reuters poll showed. "Consensus does not expect a Bank Indonesia hike today but we suspect that the decision will be a close call," DBS said in a note. "Spillover from Turkey's crisis and a large second-quarter current account deficit print have seen rupiah assets come under pressure. However, in the short term, emerging market sentiment is key." Thai shares fell about 0.7 percent, dragged primarily by energy stocks as oil prices fell. Oil and gas companies PTT PCL and PTT Exploration and Production PCL lost about 1.4 percent each. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS AS AT 0408 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3237.17 3242.87 -0.18 Bangkok 1683.62 1695.35 -0.69 Manila 7542.4 7527.78 0.19 Jakarta 5757.075 5769.873 -0.22 Kuala Lumpur 1785.44 1783.78 0.09 Ho Chi Minh 978.03 978.27 -0.02 Change on year Market Current End 2017 Pct Move Singapore 3237.17 3402.92 -4.87 Bangkok 1683.62 1753.71 -4.00 Manila 7542.4 8558.42 -11.87 Jakarta 5757.075 6355.654 -9.42 Kuala Lumpur 1785.44 1796.81 -0.63 Ho Chi Minh 978.03 984.24 -0.63 (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)
Investors trimmed their bearish positions on emerging Asian currencies over the past two weeks, a Reuters poll showed, although escalating Sino-U.S. tensions worsened the mid-term outlook for regional units.
Most Asian currencies trod water on Friday, and with the exception of the Indian rupee they were set to end the week lower, partly due to concerns over a brewing trade war and caution ahead an OPEC meeting later in the day.