November 7, 2019 / 8:51 AM / 6 days ago

FOREX-Dollar strengthens vs yen on Chinese ministry comments

* Risk-on sentiment seen across major currencies

* China spokesman boosts trade deal hopes

* Dollar gains versus yen

* Safe-haven currencies suffer

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Elizabeth Howcroft

Nov 7 (Reuters) - The dollar gained versus the yen on Thursday after comments from a Chinese commerce ministry spokesman about the terms of a possible trade deal prompted investors to dump perceived safe-havens such as the Japanese currency.

The Chinese commerce ministry said that China and the U.S. must simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on each other’s goods for both sides to reach a “phase one” trade deal.

The proportion of tariffs cancelled must be the same, and how many tariffs should be cancelled can be negotiated, said the spokesman.

The dollar jumped up to near three-month highs versus the yen, retracing its 0.3% losses from earlier in the session, as investors interpreted the comments as positive news, reducing demand for safe-haven currencies.

Adam Cole, chief currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets said the Chinese comments improved market sentiment around the trade negotiations.

“I think the best people hoped for was that we would avoid the next tranche of tariffs kicking in, whereas momentum seems to be moving in the direction of existing tariffs rolling back,” he said.

Hopes for a trade deal had been waning after a senior official of the Trump administration told Reuters on Wednesday that a meeting to sign the deal could be delayed until December and that a venue had not yet been agreed.

“Expectations were depressed and it’s not hard to beat expectations when they’re that low,” he added.

China’s offshore yuan strengthened past the key 7 per dollar level, touching its strongest level in three months, which it also reached on Tuesday.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars - proxies for risk which had been weakening due to uncertainty surrounding the possible trade deal - also gained on the comments with the Aussie up 0.2% versus the dollar..

Similar gains were seen in the Norwegian and Swedish crowns, which RBC’s Cole said were also acting as proxies for risk .

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar traded broadly flat, slightly down at -0.1%.

The United States and China have imposed tariffs on each other’s goods in a 16-month long trade war that rippled across financial markets, slowed global investments and growth.

Investors hope a preliminary trade agreement rolls back at least some of the tariffs, but negotiations between Washington and Beijing have been fractious, making an agreement far from certain.

The euro was up 0.1% against the dollar, having hit three-week lows after positive U.S. data.

MUFG analysts wrote in a note to clients that the euro was nearing levels where it would be poised for a recovery. (Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft Editing by Robert Birsel)

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