LONDON (Reuters) - The Australian dollar was the main mover on major currency markets on Tuesday, falling more than half a percent on the back of a slide in prices of iron ore, one of the country’s biggest exports.
Other majors were back in tight ranges, although some players said the euro was again looking shaky after two weeks of hints of more monetary easing by the European Central Bank which have shaken bets the single currency would top $1.40.
The Aussie has recovered solidly from lows reached in late January but worries over the pace of growth in China continue to weigh broadly on its outlook and Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle said potentially slower capital inflows to Australia pointed to more weakness.
More broadly, some currency analysts have seen signs in the past few sessions of a shift by investors toward more conservative plays, moving out of those currencies like the euro and Aussie which investors have used to gain extra yield in recent months.
“There are signs out there which to me look horribly familiar to for example 2007,” said Simon Derrick, head of currency research at Bank of New York-Mellon in London.
“The U.S. and Japanese equity markets are struggling now and that would suggest to me that the upward momentum is beginning to dry up. In that context the temptation is to take money off the table.”
He pointed to a number of catalysts overnight for the Aussie’s slide, including Debelle’s comments and the concerns over iron ore receipts. The mineral dropped to a 2-1/2-year low of $98.50 a tonne for the first time in more than two years, having been at $135 in January.
The yen held near 3 1/2-month highs against the dollar and the euro on Tuesday, supported by diminishing expectations of stimulus by the Bank of Japan as well as falling U.S. and European bond yields.
The dollar traded at 101.46 yen, a day after falling to 101.10 yen, its lowest level since early February. Against the euro, it gained 0.1 percent.
The jury is out on the fate of the single currency ahead of next month’s European Central Bank meeting. Markets now firmly expect a cut in interest rates, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to counter the picture of positive capital flows that have kept the euro surprising on the upside against the dollar this year.
Much will depend on what other kinds of action, if any, the ECB takes or hints at. In that light there are several more speeches due from bank officials on Tuesday.
The BOJ is widely expected to keep its policy unchanged at a two-day policy meeting starting on Tuesday, with the market’s attention focussed instead on Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s news conference.
Kuroda has stuck to an upbeat assessment on the Japanese economy in recent weeks, dousing immediate easing expectations.
“If Kuroda makes dovish comments tomorrow, then the dollar/yen may manage to stay above the 200-day average,” said Osamu Takashima, head of FX strategy at Citigroup Securities in Tokyo.
“But if he intentionally stresses his optimistic economic views, markets will take it as a sign he accepts a higher yen and a fall in stocks.”
The euro could face some pressure ahead of potentially destabilising European Parliament elections later this week, where votes for anti-austerity, eurosceptic parties look set to increase.
Yields on Italian and Spanish government bonds rose on Monday, as investors, concerned that a rise in eurosceptic support could thwart reform efforts, took profits on recent price gains. Yields were slightly lower on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Susan Fenton