SINGAPORE - The Philippine peso and most emerging Asian currencies crawled higher on Tuesday, but investors showed growing reluctance to add positions in regional units as China's disappointing import data deepened worries about sluggish global growth.
The peso gained on trade export figures for May and the Taiwan dollar found support from exporters' demand for settlements.
But the won slid as local importers bought dollars for payments, and amid growing concerns over faltering domestic demand in China, South Korea's top overseas market.
Imports of the world's second largest economy rose 6.3 percent in June from a year ago, data showed, less than half of a Reuters poll market forecast for 12.7 percent growth, although exports were stronger than expected.
The gloomy trade data from China pushed Asian shares lower.
"We may see a knock on effect on the rest of Asia," said Suresh Kumar Ramanathan, head of regional interest rate and FX strategy at CIMB Investment Bank in Kuala Lumpur. "We tend to look at the numbers as a negative for Asia ex-Japan FX."
Chances that Beijing will act to stimulate the economy were supported by import numbers pointing to flagging domestic demand, but any further easing does not necessarily mean emerging Asian currencies will be boosted, Ramanathan said.
"The impact from easing and translation towards improvement of the Chinese economy takes a lag period of six months to a year, so naturally it would still be negative for Asia ex-Japan FX in the medium term."
Late last week, regional currencies failed to benefit from an unexpected rate cut by People's Bank of China on July 5.
The peso started the domestic trade slightly firmer at 41.93.
Interbank players bought peso after data showed Philippines' exports in May jumped to post their highest growth in 17 months, boding well for the country's overall growth.
Some investors were reluctant to sell dollar, saying the market players appeared to hold short dollar positions to cover and amid caution over possible intervention by the central bank to limit the peso's gains.
On Saturday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said it had toughened the rules on its short-term special deposit instrument to curb speculators betting on the peso strengthening.
A European bank dealer in Manila said he expected the peso to remain steady between 41.70 and 42.10 to the dollar for the time being.