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IT is getting harder for some emerging markets to hide from the dollar’s rampage.
Staying on the sidelines or going slow while US interest rates climb risks further degradation of already weakened currencies – and a consequent worsening of inflation at home. To stand against this tide requires fortitude and, perhaps, more than a touch of obstinacy.
In an environment where inflation is stubbornly elevated, almost no prospective Federal Reserve hike seems too big to be outlandish. Just a few months ago, the idea that an increase of 100 basis points in July would be on the table seemed extreme.
Now, it’s considered plausible. The buck has extended its surge as a result, hitting a record high Thursday against a basket of developed and emerging-market currencies.
So much for the eclipse of America as the fulcrum of the world economy. The euro has slumped to parity with the dollar for the first time in more than two decades. The Thai baht slid to its weakest since 2006 on Thursday, and the lira flirted with an all-time low. Central banks in South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines ratcheted up borrowing costs the past few days, the last two in surprise interventions.,
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That won’t turn around their exchange rates on a sustained basis tomorrow, but it might help cushion them from dramatic retreats. These countries have good local reasons to act: inflation is too high for comfort at home. What about recalcitrants who refuse to raise rates, or prefer cuts, like Turkiye? Or nations that have pursued a less mercurial path, but have nevertheless resisted joining the rate stampede? Thailand is a good example of the latter approach.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked inflation stories from the past week was delivered by snail mail. Thailand Post Co raised prices for domestic letter and parcel deliveries.
This might seem small beer relative to the tumult on Wall Street or questions about the durability of the euro system, but it’s the first such move by the state enterprise in almost two decades and, it reflects cost pressures that have become too significant to ignore.
It required sign-off by the Thai cabinet, which is wrestling with the biggest increase in overall consumer prices in 14 years.
It’s not unreasonable to think the Bank of Thailand will be very far behind. The central bank said Thursday – after the surprise hikes in Singapore and the Philippines – that there’s no need for an emergency meeting.
This week, the bank emphasised it wants to gradually withdraw accommodation, “a smooth take-off.” With Thailand far behind regional and global peers, it’s unwise to consider this set in stone.