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The Currency That’s Quietly Emerged as Asia’s Safest Bet

Thai bahtThai baht
The baht is providing refuge in a moment of risk-aversion.Getty Images

The currency that was at the epicenter of the 1997 Asian financial crisis is emerging as the region’s safest bet.

The Thai baht has remained little changed during this month’s trade war turbulence, while peers such as the rupee and the won have weakened almost 3%. And strategists say the currency isn’t likely to lose its newfound status as a haven anytime soon, thanks to Thailand’s rising current-account surplus and record foreign reserves.

“’Thai baht remains a safe haven as we haven’t had significant impact from the worsening trade war like other emerging markets,” said Jitipol Puksamatanan, Bangkok-based chief strategist at Krung Thai Bank Pcl. The third most-accurate forecaster for the currency last quarter predicts the baht will rise to 30.25 per dollar by the end of the year, from about 30.74 on Wednesday.

Global emerging markets have been hit by the triple whammy of the Federal Reserve, Donald Trump and the Chinese yuan. China on Monday let the yuan weaken past 7 against the dollar amid the threat of new U.S. tariffs, worrying traders already unnerved by the Fed’s signal that it won’t pursue an extended easing cycle.

Unlike Taiwan and South Korea, which run current-account surpluses as well, Thailand is not in the direct line of fire in terms of the supply-chain impact of the global trade wars, said Sim Moh Siong, currency strategist at Bank of Singapore Ltd.

“The baht has become a refuge for investors in the region during times of risk aversion,” said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Singapore. “Its recent outperformance is a testament to that.”

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