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Most Asian currencies slip as MAS adds to slowdown concerns

By Niyati Shetty

(Reuters) - Most Asian currencies edged lower against a stronger dollar on Friday, as slower growth expectations by Singapore's central bank reinforced concerns about the health of the global economy.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Friday kept its monetary settings unchanged after two rounds of tightening, as policymakers expect the city-state's growth and inflation to ease in the face of "significant" global economic risks.

Preliminary government data for first-quarter gross domestic product released earlier in the day confirmed that the city-state was experiencing its weakest year-on-year growth in almost a decade.

"Until we see a clear bottom and subsequent improvement in the China and global growth prospects, the overall picture for the Singapore economy remains cautious," OCBC Bank said in a note, adding that Singapore's economy was seen as a harbinger of other regional growth prints to come.

The Singapore dollar was little changed at 1.356 per dollar, having strengthened 0.5 percent in the first three months of 2019.

The Malaysian ringgit softened 0.2 percent to 4.118 per dollar, while the Indonesian rupiah and the Thai baht edged down 0.1 percent each.

Investors also awaited China's March trade data, due later in the day, to see if Beijing's policy measures have helped shore up cooling growth in the world's second-largest economy.

The data comes a day after the International Monetary Fund warned that a bigger-than-expected slowdown in China's economy was among key risks to global growth.

China's exports in March are expected to have risen 7.3 percent from a year earlier, according to a Reuters poll, rebounding from a 20.8 percent drop in February.

The Chinese yuan was broadly flat at 6.720 per dollar, and was on track for a second weekly loss.


The rupee softened 0.3 percent to 69.11 per dollar ahead of retail inflation data, and was poised to post third weekly fall.

Retail inflation is expected to have accelerated in March on slightly higher food prices but remained under the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) medium-term target of 4 percent, a Reuters poll predicted.

If inflation remains under control, RBI would have room to squeeze in another rate cut this year after it lowered borrowing costs for a second consecutive time at its April 4 meeting.

(Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)