FOREX-Yen claws back ground as looming winter chills vaccine cheer

    * Yen has recouped more than half its vaccine-driven losses
    * Dollar steady as risk currencies struggle for headway
    * China's economic performance powers yuan to 29-month top
    * Graphic: World FX rates in 2020

    By Tom Westbrook
    SYDNEY, Nov 18 (Reuters) - The safe-haven Japanese yen
climbed to a one-week high and a steady U.S. dollar held
commodity currencies in check on Wednesday, as tighter economic
restrictions across the United States and Europe tested market
optimism over vaccine trials.
    At 104.04 per dollar, the yen has recouped nearly two
thirds of the steep losses it suffered last week after Pfizer
announced it had developed a working COVID-19 vaccine.
    Bitcoin, sometimes regarded as a haven asset, or
at least a hedge against inflation, soared above $18,000 for the
first time in nearly three years, while risk sensitive Asian
currencies struggled, save for a rising Chinese yuan.
    "Further positive vaccine-development news is still expected
over the next few days or weeks, and it does lower the downside
risk to global growth," said Citi strategist Johanna Chua.
    "But near-term sentiment may still get clouded by the harsh
winter in the west because of the resurgence in COVID cases."
    Surging cases have driven record hospitalisations and fresh
restrictions on gathering in the United States, while new
outbreaks vex authorities in Japan, South Korea and Australia.

    Daily infections hit a record in Tokyo and the city is
preparing to lift its alert status to the highest of four
levels, local media said, which would involve asking some
businesses to shorten their hours.
    Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that
there was "a long way to go" to economic recovery.
    The Australian and the New Zealand dollar
oscillated around flat or just below flat. Australian yields
fell after the announcement of a six-day lockdown to combat a
new COVID-19 cluster in South Australia.
    The euro was steady at $1.1867, having hardly moved
on vaccine news over the past week. That news includes Moderna's
successful trials, which European Central Bank President
Christine Lagarde said would probably not be a major game
changer for next year's forecasts.
    Against a basket of currencies the dollar held at
92.392 - a little softer than earlier in the week as a slight
bond rally has knocked the shine off U.S. Treasury yields.
    "It's back to pondering short-term negatives vs longer-term
vaccine positives, and that's creating volatility," ANZ analysts
said in a note. "Vaccine deployment isn't an immediate fix ...
expect things to remain mixed and messy."
    Elsewhere sterling edged higher as traders hoped for a
Brexit trade deal breakthrough.
    Britain's chief negotiator David Frost has told Prime
Minister Boris Johnson to expect a Brussels trade deal "early
next week", The Sun newspaper reported, with "a possible landing
zone" as soon as next Tuesday.
    However, while soft U.S. economic data weighs on broader
sentiment, strong industrial output in China has kept the yuan's
barnstorming run alive, sending it to a new 29-month low of
    The Chinese yuan has gained nearly 9% against the dollar
since late May, despite the central bank taking various actions
to temper its strength and it is becoming an increasingly
popular conduit for bets against the U.S. dollar.       
    Later on Wednesday British inflation figures are due and
several U.S. Fed members make speeches. In emerging markets,
focus is on a Bank of Thailand meeting, though most economists
expect rates to be kept on hold.
    Currency bid prices at 4:33PM in Sydney (0533 GMT)
 Description      RIC         Last           U.S. Close  Pct Change     YTD Pct     High Bid    Low Bid
                                              Previous                   Change                 
 Euro/Dollar                  $1.1875        $1.1861     +0.11%         +5.91%      +1.1875     +1.1851
 Dollar/Yen                   103.9950       104.1900    -0.10%         -4.17%      +104.1900   +104.0550
 Euro/Yen                     123.49         123.57      -0.06%         +1.26%      +123.6300   +123.3700
 Dollar/Swiss                 0.9103         0.9116      -0.14%         -5.93%      +0.9119     +0.9103
 Sterling/Dollar              1.3263         1.3250      +0.11%         +0.01%      +1.3267     +1.3248
 Dollar/Canadian              1.3094         1.3107      -0.09%         +0.80%      +1.3117     +1.3090
 Aussie/Dollar                0.7290         0.7300      -0.12%         +3.91%      +0.7299     +0.7272
 NZ                           0.6894         0.6894      +0.03%         +2.48%      +0.6899     +0.6877
 Dollar/Dollar All spots
Tokyo spots
Europe spots 
Tokyo Forex market info from BOJ 

 (Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sam Holmes)