* Yen firm; growth woes, low yields and easing prospect dog peers
* Kiwi, Aussie claw back some losses from RBNZ’s big rate cut
* But outlook remains grim as US-China trade war intensifies
* Yuan strengthens after midpoint setting firmer than expected
* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh (Adds details and quotes, updates prices)
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - The yen was supported on Thursday, after global central banks startled markets with heavy rate cuts and threats of more to come as world economic risks grow, boosting the appeal of the safe-haven Japanese currency.
The New Zealand and Australian dollars clawed back some of their heavy losses from the previous session, although analysts said their longer term outlook remained bleak.
On Wednesday, both currencies tumbled after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand stunned markets with a bigger than expected interest rate cut and flagged the possibility of negative rates.
Broadening expectations of global monetary easing are now weighing on currencies such as the dollar and the euro, providing the yen with further support.
The yen was a tad firmer at 106.185 per dollar. It touched 105.500 overnight, its strongest level since Jan. 3, before pulling back slightly.
“The yen’s appreciation versus the dollar may have slowed for now, but it stands to keep gaining in the longer term,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior FX strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo. “Its other peers, notably the antipodean currencies, have weakened severely and this provides overall support to the yen.”
The New Zealand dollar on Wednesday tumbled to a seven-year low of 67.58 yen and was last at 68.61 for a gain of 0.2%. The RBNZ’s move on Wednesday was followed by central banks in Thailand and India signalling major concerns about the outlook of economic growth.
The kiwi nudged up 0.2% to $0.6458, following a slide to a 3-1/2-year low of $0.6378 on Wednesday.
The Australian dollar rose 0.15% to $0.6770 after hitting $0.6677 overnight, its lowest since March 2009, as RBNZ’s rate cut fuelled speculation that its Australian counterpart would soon follow. The Aussie was at 71.98 yen following a retreat to a decade-low of 70.74 yen on Wednesday.
The escalation of the trade conflict between Washington and Beijing was seen hurting the long term economic fortunes of China, in turn damaging the prospects of antipodean countries which have deep commercial ties with the world’s second largest economy.
“The intensifying Sino-U.S. trade war means downward pressure on the Australian and New Zealand dollars are increasing, as their economies export heavily to China,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities.
On Thursday, China’s onshore yuan strengthened 0.2% to 7.0442 per dollar. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the midpoint rate weaker than 7 to the dollar for the first time since the global financial crisis, but the level was firmer than the market expected and signalled an intent to stabilise the currency’s decline.
China on Monday allowed the yuan to break the key 7-per-dollar threshold for the first time in a decade, with its decision to guide the currency lower opening a new front in the trade war.
A growing list of central banks have eased monetary policy in a bid to stave off negative effects of slowing global growth, while plunging yields have driven currencies lower.
“The decline in Treasury yields sets dollar/yen firmly on downward spiral as the market continues to price more Fed rate cuts. The European Central Bank looks set to ease in September, which will only support the yen even more,” Ishikawa at IG Securities said.
The euro traded at 119.09 yen after brushing a 28-month trough of 117.66 at the start of the week.
Interest rates futures suggested traders are building bets the Federal Reserve would cut rates three more times by year-end to avert a recession.
In the wake of such speculation, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield sank to a three-year low of 1.595% on Wednesday.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood little changed at 97.537 after dipping 0.1% overnight.
The index rose to a 27-month high of 98.932 just a week ago after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell ruled out lengthy monetary easing, but it has since declined sharply on resurgent prospects of more rate cuts. The euro nudged up 0.1% to $1.1211. (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Sam Holmes and Richard Borsuk)