One of the biggest drivers of Asian currencies in the coming months could be the weather.
In a note out Wednesday, strategists at Deutsche Bank examined the impact that the climate pattern La Niña could have on Asian economies, and how a pass through effect from the weather could ease a jump in inflation and eventually weaken currencies.
The National Oceanic Administration Agency has confirmed that La Niña is coming. It will follow a record-setting El Niño, which is marked by unusually dry weather.
La Niña is characterised by powerful monsoons that could flood low-lying areas; Thailand was slammed by heavy flooding in 2011, for example. The cycle between both, which occasionally happens every two to seven years, is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.
The main economic impact across much of Asia will be on inflation, via food prices — the largest component of the consumer price index in most Asian countries, Deutsche Bank wrote. Drought conditions in the recent El Niño pushed up fruit and vegetable costs.
Here’s Deutsche Bank’s John Tierney and team (emphasis added):
“With the ENSO cycle normalizing and La Niña possibly coming, food inflation should settle down along with feed stock prices. This should lead to lower meat prices, which is positive for China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan. Lower inflation may also, at the margins, lead to lower rates in these countries, and a narrowing of interest rate differentials versus the dollar which, in turn, could contribute to a weakening of currencies in these countries.”
China has sharply devalued the yuan to make its exports more competitive. Other export-heavy nations like Taiwan and South Korea would also rather have a weaker currency for this reason.
And in addition to weather-related impacts, Deutsche Bank expects the Malaysian ringgit and Philippine peso may already skew to weakness given other domestic factors, boosting the export prospects for these nations.
The only country that could be adversely affected by all of this is Thailand, the analysts said, because the government steps in to provide above-market prices for crops which could offset any weather-related impacts.