China trade deal doubts lift yen, hamper yuan

The yen firmed to ¥108.80 per dollar, having risen to as high as 108.66 in previous US trade. — Reuters pic
The yen firmed to ¥108.80 per dollar, having risen to as high as 108.66 in previous US trade. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Nov 14 — Doubts that securing a trade agreement between the United States and China is far from a done deal helped to lift safe-haven currencies such as the yen and the Swiss franc today, while pulling the yuan lower.

US-China trade negotiations have ‘hit a snag’ over farm purchases, with Beijing not wanting a deal that looks one-sided in favour of the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The report came after US President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China was “close,” but offered no details and warned that he would raise tariffs “substantially” on Chinese goods if there was no deal.

An agreement last month between the two economic powers to sign a “phase one” pact to end their trade war boosted optimism in global financial markets, lifting the yuan and other risk-sensitive currencies.

“If Trump takes a hard line, emboldened by the latest strength in stock markets, and refuses to make some concessions to China, there will be risk an agreement cannot be reached at the last minute,” said Makoto Noji, chief currency and foreign bond strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

The yen firmed to ¥108.80 (RM4.16) per dollar, having risen to as high as 108.66 in previous US trade.

The Japanese currency, often used as a safe-haven asset because of Japan’s status as the world’s largest net creditor nation, has hit a five-month low of 109.49 a week ago.

The yen hardly budged after Japan’s GDP data showed the economy grew an annualised 0.2 per cent in July-September, much below economists’ forecast of 0.8 per cent.

The Swiss franc has been firm, having risen almost 0.6 per cent over the last two days against the euro, to hit its highest level in more than a month.

The franc traded at 1.0895 per euro, near yesterday's peak of 1.0879. Against the dollar, the franc stood at 0.9898 per dollar.

The offshore yuan traded at 7.0292 yuan per dollar, retreating since it hit a three-month high of 6.9530 last Thursday.

China’s retail sales and industrial production data due later in the day (0200 GMT) is a key focus for markets.

The Australian dollar shed a half percentage point to one-month low of US$0.6802 after weak employment data showing the first fall in payrolls in three years.

The euro stood at US$1.10075, having touched one-month low of US$1.0995 in US trade.

Sterling was little moved at US$1.2857, stuck in a tight range this week, in a limbo ahead of a December 12 election.

A poll carried out for the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have a healthy 10-point lead over main opposition Labour. — Reuters

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