June 26, 2018 / 6:20 AM / in 4 months

FOREX-Dollar falls vs yen as trade disputes intensify, yuan at 6-mth lows

(Adds analyst comment, updates prices throughout)

* White House officials send mixed messages on trade policy

* Yen two-week high vs dollar on risk aversion

* Chinese yuan hits lowest in six months

* Commodity currencies softer as oil rally halts and copper sags

By Tomo Uetake

TOKYO, June 26 (Reuters) - The dollar slipped against the yen in Asian trade on Tuesday, hovering near a two-week low, as worries over an intensifying conflict between the United States and its trade partners continued to sap risk appetite.

Markets were buffeted by mixed trade messages from Washington.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that coming investment restrictions from the department would not be specific to China but would apply “to all countries that are trying to steal our technology.”

However, that statement was contradicted by White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, who said that any investment restrictions proposed by the Trump administration would target China and not other countries.

Although the dollar briefly pared some of its losses after Navarro’s comments, it slipped back to 109.57 yen, down 0.2 percent on the day and near the two-week low of 109.365 touched on Monday.

“It looks like there are still several different opinions within the White House on proposed restrictions on foreign investment,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of market research at JPMorgan Chase Bank in Tokyo.

“I think stock and currency markets are likely to stay nervous of trade-related headlines until July 6, when the Trump administration will announce its next moves on China.”

The news added to the heightened caution seen after Trump threatened on Friday to impose a 20 percent tariff on cars imported from the European Union. The EU said it would be forced to retaliate.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, stood at 94.259, falling further from the 11-month high of 95.533 it reached on Thursday.

The trade dispute between the United States and China knocked offshore yuan to 6.5640 per dollar, the weakest in nearly six months.

In today’s fixing, China set U.S. dollar/Chinese yuan at 6.5180, slightly below expectations around 6.5220, with some analysts taking a view that Chinese authorities may try in coming days to counter the yuan’s weakness.

“It’s early days, but this could indicate that China thinks we’ve seen enough yuan depreciation for the time being,” said Sue Trinh, head of Asia FX strategy at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong.

“So, watch out for more aggressive fixings especially if we get a few more days of sustained depreciation.”

The euro edged up 0.1 percent in Asian trade to $1.1716 , extending its recovery from its 11-month low of $1.1508 touched on Thursday.

The euro’s gains came after it strengthened on Friday following improved regional economic growth data and new assurances by Italian politicians that their nation would not leave the single currency.

Still, the single currency remains vulnerable to regional political instability as German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces pressure to deal with the migration issue that has divided Europe and threatened her own government.

“The ongoing political angst in Europe also has contributed to risk-off market sentiment,” said Kengo Suzuki, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities.

The commodity-linked Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars were steady to slightly softer, as a surge in crude oil prices ran out of steam and copper prices sagged. (Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Richard Borsuk and Eric Meijer)

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