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Yen firms, Aussie slips on China growth worries and Wall St. drop
February 2, 2015 / 5:11 AM / 3 years ago

Yen firms, Aussie slips on China growth worries and Wall St. drop

SYDNEY/ TOKYO (Reuters) - The yen briefly touched a two-week high versus the dollar on Monday, while commodity currencies were fragile as worries about the health of the Chinese economy added to unease following a selloff on Wall Street.

Japanese 10,000 yen notes line up in Tokyo, in this February 28, 2013 picture illustration. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano

The dollar slid to a two-week low of 116.64 yen in early trade, its lowest since Jan. 16, down from around 117.52 late in New York on Friday.

Dollar buying by Japanese importers helped the exchange rate back to 117.74 yen, but analysts say the dollar looks vulnerable after data showed on Friday the U.S. economy slowed in the fourth quarter, driving Treasury yields to new lows.

“Now that U.S. GDP growth has come lower than expected, markets are paying more attention to other U.S. data, to be released in the coming days,” said Kengo Suzuki, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Among key numbers, U.S. ISM non-manufacturing data will be out on Monday and Friday’s non-farm payrolls report is due on Friday.

“There is a broad consensus that the U.S. economy is the only bright spot for global growth. If headline numbers are weaker than expected, markets tend to react more,” said Minori Uchida, head of Tokyo Global Market Research at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

The yen was also helped by investor’s turning more risk averse after an official survey on Sunday showed activity in China’s factory sector unexpectedly shrank for the first time in nearly 2-1/2 years in January.

A separate survey, the HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), showed on Monday that activity in China’s factory sector shrank for a second month in January, helping to cap commodity currencies.

The euro also reached a one-week trough of 132.00 yen before bouncing back to 133.16, while the Australian dollar plumbed an 11-month low of 90.25 yen before steadying around 91.50.

“The weaker China PMI is likely to reinforce the market’s current negative bias towards commodity currencies and those linked closely to the China growth story,” said Jonathan Cavenagh, currency strategist at Westpac.

A recent surprise cut in rates by the Bank of Canada and a dovish turn by New Zealand’s central bank, were also keeping buyers at bay.

Even an 8-percent surge in oil prices on Friday failed to give much lift to the loonie, which continued to hover near a six-year trough of C$1.2800 per U.S. dollar.

Analysts suspect Australia’s central bank will be next to jump on the dovish bandwagon. The Reserve Bank of Australia board meets on Tuesday and many suspect it will either lower the cash rate by a quarter point to 2.25 percent or lay the groundwork for a reduction in coming months.

Consequently, speculators have built large short positions in the Australian dollar, which slumped to a six-year trough of $0.7720 last week. It was last at $0.7774.

Adding to the downbeat mix, Wall Street is increasingly worried about corporate earnings and Greece is yet to persuade a skeptical Europe to accept a new debt agreement.

“We believe that the likelihood of a Greek exit is now significantly higher than at any point in 2012, in view of the latest political events,” analysts at Barclays wrote in a note to clients.

Still, there was no renewed push to sell the euro, leading some analysts to think that much of bad news on Europe may have been already priced in.

The euro traded at $1.1313, off an 11-year trough of $1.1098 set a week ago. A series of manufacturing PMIs for many euro zone members due later on Monday will provide the main, immediate focus for the market.

Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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