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Asian Central Banks Meet to Talk US Dollar, Markets

Southeast Asian central banks will discuss financial market uncertainty and dollar weakness at a two-day central bankers' meeting in Jakarta starting on Friday, Indonesian central bank officials said.

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Governors from the various Southeast Asian nations, including South Korea and Taiwan, gathered in Jakarta for a regular meeting from March 21-22, that coincided with heightened concerns over the U.S. financial system and global economic growth.

The meeting "addresses the problem of uncertainties in the global economy which, by now, I think everybody has realized is getting bigger and we have to try to make efforts in these conditions to maintain macroeconomic stability," Burhanuddin Abdullah, Indonesia's central bank governor, told a news conference.

The dollar hit a record low against the euro and its lowest versus the yen in nearly 13 years this week after JPMorgan Chasereached a deal to buy stricken rival Bear Stearns, and the U.S. Federal Reserve expanded lending to securities firms for the first time since the Great Depression.

Most Southeast Asian currencies - the Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit, Indonesian rupiah and Singapore dollar have risen against the dollar. The baht has climbed 7.9 percent against the dollar since the start of the year.

But the Philippine peso has eased 0.3 percent against the dollar.

Outside of Southeast Asia, the Korean won has fallen 7.3 percent on the dollar since the start of 2008.

The weakening of the dollar "will be discussed. But it will not be specifically about the weakening of the dollar itself because we don't know whether it will get weaker or stronger," Indonesian central bank deputy governor Hartadi Sarwono said.

Asian economies rely heavily on exports to the United States, so governments and bankers fear the weaker dollar and slowdown in the world's biggest economy is likely to hurt Asia's growth prospects.

"What happens now is the turbulence comes from the biggest country, the United States, so I think the discussion will be around that subject," Indonesia's governor Abdullah said.

Abdullah said the central bankers will discuss efforts to deepen their financial markets, for example by having more liquid markets and more debt instruments to help ease the impact of external shocks.

"What are the policy options available for us? Standard literature has suggested financial market deepening," said Abdullah, providing more instruments, players and liquidity in financial markets.