December 4, 2019 / 12:36 AM / 2 days ago

FOREX-Yen, Swiss franc hold gains as trade war worries deepen

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

* Trump’s comments on trade roil markets

* Prolonged trade war hurts global growth

* Safe-havens gain, dollar weakens broadly

By Stanley White

TOKYO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The yen and Swiss franc held gains against the dollar on Wednesday as appetite for safe-havens spiked after U.S. President Donald Trump warned a trade deal with China might not come until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

In offshore trade, China’s yuan traded near its weakest versus the dollar since October due to waning hopes for a truce in trade war between the world’s two-largest economies.

The dollar was broadly sold against major currencies, which helped sterling climb to its highest level in more that six months against the greenback.

Trump’s statement that he had “no deadline” for an agreement with China weakened sentiment and roiled financial markets, because trade friction could drag on global growth longer than many investors had anticipated.

The diminishing prospects for an agreement also reinforced expectations the United States could carry out its plan to raise tariffs even further on Chinese goods on Dec. 15.

“Expectations for a U.S.-China trade deal are fading, and dollar/yen has broken its support levels, so the bias is tilted to the downside,” said Takuya Kanda, general manager of research at Gaitame.com Research Institute in Tokyo.

“More tariffs would push dollar/yen lower still.”

The yen stood at 108.54 versus the dollar on Wednesday, close to its strongest since Nov. 22.

The Swiss franc was quoted at 0.9875 versus the dollar, near its highest level since Nov. 4.

Both the Japanese and Swiss currencies tend to be bought as safe-havens during times of uncertainty.

The offshore yuan stood at 7.0691 per dollar, close to its weakest level since Oct. 18.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said that while staff-level talks are continuing with Chinese officials, no high-level meetings are scheduled.

If there is no deal or substantial progress in talks before Dec. 15, tariffs on remaining Chinese imports, including cell phones, laptop computers and toys, will take effect, Ross told CNBC on Tuesday.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was quoted at 97.737, having skidded to a one-month low.

Sterling, meanwhile, benefited from the dollar’s slide and rose to $1.3014, the highest since mid-May this year.

Trump’s comments on trade so far this week have already caused a major stir.

On Monday, he said he would hit Brazil and Argentina with trade tariffs for “massive devaluation of their currencies”.

The United States then threatened duties of up to 100% on French goods, from champagne to handbags, because of a digital services tax that Washington says harms U.S. tech companies. (Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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