* Fresh uncertainty towards French elections adds to risk
* Yen hits five-month highs vs dollar, euro, sterling and
(Updates prices, adds details and quotes)
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, April 12 The yen hit five-month highs
against the dollar, euro and sterling on Wednesday, as simmering
geopolitical tensions checked risk appetite and put the
safe-haven Japanese currency in favour.
Investors' flight-to-safety underpinned traditional
safe-havens like the yen, Treasuries and gold, amid fresh
concerns about the French presidential election and possible
U.S. military action against Syria and North Korea.
"Direct demand for the yen driven by flight-to-safety,
rather than bids generated by lower Treasury yields,
characterises the latest move," said Masashi Murata, senior
currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.
"As recent data suggest, the United States is not in bad
shape fundamentally and this should be dollar-supportive. But
right now the tide favours the yen and participants do not want
to miss the next wave of yen buying."
The dollar was at 109.465 yen after going as low as
109.350, its weakest since Nov. 17.
The U.S. currency had slid more than 1 percent the previous
day from highs of 110.920, with the 110.00 threshold finally
being breached after several close calls over the past few
"There was a lot of bids and option barriers lined up around
110 yen, so a breach of this level shows how widespread the
latest dollar selling was," said Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex
strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.
"The yen's gains against the euro also bears watching, with
uncertainty towards the French presidential elections clearly
the driving factor."
The euro, which sank more than 1 percent overnight,
extended losses and touched a five-month low of 116.020 yen
. The common currency was on track to post its 13th
straight session of losses versus the yen.
On Tuesday, North Korean state media warned of a nuclear
attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression,
while U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that Pyongyang was
"looking for trouble" and the United States would "solve the
problem" with or without China's help.
And in a new twist to the French elections, a far-left
veteran who had been written off as a long shot has now surged
into the top four, pushing some pollsters to calculate the most
extreme runoff scenarios.
While the euro sagged against the yen, it fared better
versus the struggling dollar. The common currency was up 0.1
percent at $1.0610, adding to modest overnight gains.
It was a similar story for the pound, which retreated to a
near five-month low of 136.60 yen but edged up against
the dollar. Sterling was steady at $1.2489 after
gaining about 0.6 percent overnight.
The dollar index against a basket of major currencies was
steady at 100.710, after losing 0.3 percent the previous
The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in broader risk
appetite, was steady at $0.7493 after dropping to a
near three-month trough of $0.7475 the previous day.
The Aussie added to the previous day's large losses and fell
to a near five-month low of 81.85 yen.
The New Zealand dollar slipped 0.3 percent to $0.6940
(Editing by Randy Fabi)