Yen Hits 3-Month High as Trade Breakdown Spurs Safe-Haven Demand
Even as two days of Sino-U.S. trade talks began in Washington on Thursday, the escalating tensions between the two world powers sent investors into risk-off mode, boosting the appeal of the safe-haven yen. Hopes that the U.S. and China could avoid escalating their trade dispute evaporated as U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that Beijing “broke the deal” and stood firm on plans to raise tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese imports.
China said that increasing levies would likely damage the global economy and not be in the interests of either country. Beijing requested that the U.S. meet it halfway, but nonetheless promised retaliatory tariffs in response to Trump’s increase.
“We continue to expect a deal given how much both sides have to lose, but it may take several more months of back and forth and more negative headlines in the meantime,” analysts at LPL Financial Research wrote in a note. “Volatility is likely to remain elevated in the near term, and patience will be required until a trade agreement can be reached.”
As traders piled out of equities, they rotated over to the Japanese yen. USD/JPY was last down 0.5% at 109.51 by 11:26 AM ET (15:26 GMT). That was its lowest level since Feb. 1. The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, was under pressure primarily from the strengthening yen and also safe-haven Swiss franc. The index dropped 0.3% to 97.12. The Chinese yuan remained under pressure, marking a fresh four-month low against the U.S. dollar. USD/CNY gained 0.7% to 6.8274.
The Australian dollar underwent a similar fate, also touching a four-month low against the greenback due to exposure to the Chinese economy.